The goal of the project is to create a cheap, simple, open source, automated, 3D printed, connected, DIY model railway system. Here are the details about why can it be useful and how can it help the world.
There sure is a problem: young students don't get enough education in schools about engineering. Sure, they have physics class, and one in a million school has 'science fairs', but that's all. But did you see any microcontrollers? Did you teacher show you how a transistor works? Did you blink a LED with an arduino or raspi in your programming class? Did they teach you to code anything useful? I just finished high school, and I haven't seen anything like that (inside school I mean, so I had to learn it all by myself). That's a serious problem. How can children be interested in engineering if they don't even see anything interesting? How can young students know how awesome it is to build and program something if they don't experience it? We need more practical education, and we need it cheap, because schools tend to not have too much money to buy any equipment. We have to make learning engineering fun and interesting instead of just teaching meaningless formulas and code snippets.
I only have this one project to offer. It's not too much, but it's something. What makes a model railway perfect for being and educational equipment? It's the complexity of the system. While developing this project, I've learned a lot about electronics, coding, 3D printing, and even CAD modeling, and I hope it can also help other students. It is affordable for schools, and can be useful from elementary through high school to technical school. The possibilities are endless.
THE STANDARD KIT
Since the project is more like a DIY kit with individual parts rather than one single product, I collected some basic parts into one theoretical product called "standard kit", to be able to compare the prices, and the components. The raw material cost of the kit is about 93 USD. (and almost half of that is the cost of the raspi) If that's not cheap for a starter model railway kit, I don't know what is. The components needed for the standard kit are listed below, and you can also view a detailed bill of materials in excel format here.
Contents of the standard kit:
- 1x Master station (the one with the raspi and the power supply)
- 1x Normal station
- 2x Train
- 1x Right switch