The People Mover. Another Teen Maker Makes His Move - from Maker Faire NYC 2014

Maker Faire NYC? We were there, and we took to the tents to explore which innovators are actively making the world a better place. We spoke with the young and the well-traveled, each tackling issues of access. One guy making his impact is Massachusetts-teen Adrian Niles, whose People Mover project has taken him from his house to the White House. NotImpossibleNow's editor had a chat with Adrian about his project and purpose.
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Maker Faire NYC? We were there, and we took to the tents to explore which innovators are actively making the world a better place. We spoke with the young and the well-traveled, each tackling issues of access. One guy making his impact is Massachusetts-teen Adrian Niles, whose People Mover project has taken him from his house to the White House. NotImpossibleNow's editor had a chat with Adrian about his project and purpose.

Adrian Niles: Do you want me to give you the whole thing?

NIN: The pitch? Yeah. Go for it.

Adrian: All right. My name is Adrian Niles and I'm from Brockton, Massachusetts and this is a mobility aid for the disabled and elderly population.

You've got a name for it?

Adrian: The People Mover. I call it the People Mover. The original purpose of the People Mover was to build a transport-like device that can go forward and backwards and turn left and right.

Once I finished the prototype of that, I figured out that it had the potential to do way much more so then I added safety features to it so it can assist the disabled and elderly population. I researched that Dean Kamen did an original Segway to assist the disabled and elderly.

At the bottom of my board, you can see a picture of the Segway and the People Mover, which is my product. My product goes faster than the original Segway. Mine goes 15.8 and then the original Segway goes 12.5, but the original Segway can go 24 miles on one charge while mine can only go 19 miles per hour.

Segway-comparison.jpg

I originally thought my budget was going to cost $301, then it ended up being around $1300. And that's from upgrading parts to better parts and from breaking stuff and having to buy more of that stuff.

Originally I had a 8-to-1 gear ratio. That gear ratio was mapped out to go 32 miles per hour but, when we tested it, it only went 9 miles per hour with a load on it. So that's really inefficient.

So I designed a 16-to-1 gear ratio that can go 15.8 miles per hour when you're standing on it, so that's more efficient.

On the bottom, you can see my safety features, like proximity sensors that are located in the back. Those will tell the rider if something is behind them or not, so they don't have to constantly turn around and worry if something is behind them.

And then you also have foot steering. So if a person had one arm or no arms at all, they can use the foot steering to turn left and right so they don't have to turn with their hands.

And then you also have headlights and backlights that turn on automatically once it gets dark outside and you have left and right direction lights as well, for when you turn left and right.

I also had people test this device out. I put a survey out on surveymonkey.com and most of the people that filled out the survey were between the ages of 54 and 64.

I had people test it at my High School and some people say that they feel like it's a workout for their back, so they really like it, and I had some people test out the steering. Bigger people liked the handlebar steering [mechanism] and the shorter people liked using their feet to steer.

people-mover.jpg

I recently just came back from LA. I got, I met will.i.am at the White House Maker Faire. The first ever White House Maker Faire and he really liked my project so he um, brought up the idea of 3D printing the whole entire project.

So he brought me out to LA for 10 days and I was able to work in his studio and 3D print my whole entire project on a 3D printer.

Awesome. (laughs) And I heard you met Dean Kamen?

Adrian: Yeah.

What did he say in person?

Adrian: When I ran into Will.I.Am ... I introduced myself to Will and then Will brought over Dean Kamen and Dean Kamen really liked it and he was talking to me about that. And then I met him again at this New York Maker Faire and he gave me a card and we got talking about some internships for next year.

That's pretty awesome. How did that make you feel?

Adrian: Oh, that made me feel good that I actually met the creator of [the Segway], who I really looked up to when I was starting this project.

What do you like about what Will.I.Am is trying to do. Not everybody knows how interested he is in all sorts of different technologies--

Adrian: I can't say much right now, but he is really interested in technology and he is really involved and he is really an inspiring person. He has something amazing that's about to come out soon.

It's really inspiring that he designed that whole entire thing that's about to come out and I was really inspired by that and I really like that. And he's just a really good guy, too.

So what was the first time you used this with someone who has disabilities?

Adrian: I didn't get permission to test it with anyone that had a disability but I tested it with some elderly people at my school and they really liked it as well.

At first, it took them a while to learn how to use it but after a minute, then they were riding it fine. You can see that in my YouTube video as well.

Cool. And uh, so the first elderly person that jumped on it, what were you feeling as they stepped on? Were you scared or were you excited?

Adrian: Well, I had the Lieutenant-Governor ride it and then when he was riding it, he kept pressing the button which made the whole thing shut off. So I was just hoping that the person at my school wasn't going to press the button and make them fall off. That's the only thing I was hoping.

What made you think about the Segway in terms of it being able to help people, rather than just as a tool for recreation for general population (or mall cops)?

Adrian: When I first designed the project, I wanted it to benefit somebody else. I didn't want someone to think that it's like a fun project that I just made for myself to use. I wanted it to actually benefit somebody else, to change somebody else's life.

Like, my whole goal in life is to help people with the technology that I learned about, so that's what this project basically is.

People-Mover-Adrian-Niles.jpg

After all this recognition for this project, how are you using that awareness? What's your next step?

Adrian: I really don't know what my next steps are right now. I have so many ideas, I don't know which one I'm going to put out first. But this whole project has opened doors for me that I wouldn't really get access to. It's really shaped what I am going to do next and what projects I am going to work on.

And who, who gave you the interest in this sort of stuff? Are your parents scientifically minded? Or was it a favorite teacher who put you on this path?

Adrian: Well, I was always interested in building stuff. It started with my Dad. He used to always bring me home Legos and told me to build it and put it together, so that really helped my creative process.

And then when I got into High School I passed by a shop that had a sign on it for a competition. It was a consumer competition. Each student had to build a consumer product that had to be sold for under $20.

So I had this idea of building a coaster. When you put your cup on it, it lights up your whole entire cup. I wasn't in a shop class yet, since it was my Freshman year at High School, at Southeastern Regional Vocational High School.

And then I went into an electronics shop and met my shop teacher, Mr. Buck. And he was nice enough to help me and teach me how to wire LEDs and all this.

He didn't have to help me but he was nice enough to help me with this project as well, and motivated me to keep going and everything, so that's who I really want to thank a lot.

And, on a tangent, if you could solve any kind of the world's hugest problems, cancer, the environment, economic inequality, what do you think about most?

Adrian: Uh… Energy. Like, electric cars and motors. I remember one time I had a dream that I made something and it wouldn't stop moving. And I unplugged it and it kept moving. When I tried to slow it down, it kept moving. So, that's the dream right now. That energy would change everything.

Images of the People Mover and Adrian Niles by Elliot V. Kotek for NotImpossibleNow; Images of Will.I.Am provided by Image.net for this week's Paris launch of his high-tech bespoke Lexus NX. [Ed. note: the Lexus has four 180 degree external cameras to allow panoramic images to be captured and displayed on a smartphone].