As a Principles of Engineering course project, a team of four other students and I built a two-axis computer-controlled cake-frosting machine. We called it “AutoFrost.” I wrote the Python software, which generated the GUI and transformed user input (on an MS Paint-style canvas) into numbers that could serve as motor instructions (once fed through our Arduino).
Our project led to purchase requests, job offers, and quite a bit of media coverage. It was written about in PopSci, Hack a Day, and Wired Gadget Lab. (Follow any of those links to see a video of the robot in action.) PopSci particularly praised my facetious design decisions: “The best part might be the personality the team injected into even the commands. When you’ve finished your drawing, you hit a button that reads, ‘I’m ready to design an amazing cake.'” But the Wired headline is my favorite: “Students Build Cake-Frosting Robot, Should Win Nobel Prize.” We’d settle for an Ig Nobel, but the committee still hasn’t called.