Novi resident and programmer at Oakland University Eric Merrill likes to spend his free time “tinkering with things,” such as building a remote-control helicopter and designing his cell phone to start his car remotely.
He brought these two projects to share at Maker Faire, a two-day, interactive event in which participants share their arts, crafts, engineering, food, music, science and technology projects. The event, which celebrates creativity and discovering, was held this past Saturday and Sunday at The Henry Ford.
Merrill was one of two entrants from Novi at Maker Faire; the other entrant was a group of Novi students.
Merrill’s quadcopter is a 3-square-foot remote control aircraft, which he has been working on for 16 months. It’s based on the work of the AeroQuad group, an open-source quadcopter community.
“You build it however you want—the actual quadcopter—but they have software to help it work and whatnot, and then they have general guidelines from other users’ experience,” Merrill said.
His second project was a remote-start function for a car, which was implemented into his cell phone. Merrill worked on it for one month.
“I bought a new car, and the remote start that came with it, it comes with a separate key fob from the main one, and I didn’t really want to have a second one on my key chain, so I was trying to figure out a way to get around that,” he said.
Merrill said he was driven to participate in Maker Faire because the event has a relationship with the “hackerspace” i3 Detroit in Ferndale, where he serves as vice president.
“Basically what hackerspace is, is a community workshop,” he said. “Ours is about 7,000 square feet and it’s just filled with tools and equipment and people, and it’s a place to go and implement things, make things happen.”
I3 had a big presence at The Henry Ford event, with two 20-by-40-foot tents.
“The Faire was a blast, it felt a lot more crowded this year than last year—a lot more people, a lot more makers,” Merrill said. “It was hot, and being a maker outside, it’s a little brutal being outside two days all day in 90-plus-degree heat in a parking lot, but it was still a lot of fun. Talked to a lot of good people. Made a lot of good connections.”
Merrill said he creates his inventions just because he enjoys doing it, not for financial gain. He plans to publish the design files for his cell phone remote-start invention for public use.