Unleash Your Stories – Henry Luo

“Innovation” is a term often used to describe big ideas to solve large scale problems; however, that view does not encompass all innovation. In fact, many innovations and great ideas come from a desire to make certain aspects of daily life easier or more efficient, and it is something we are all capable of. For Henry Luo, a Masters student of Biological Science at the University of Auckland, this desire comes from his daily activity of cycling to university.

Henry uses his electric bike to get around town, an excellent mode of transport and great exercise. However, Henry often has to bike at night on Dominion road, a very busy and bumpy road in Auckland, and particularly dangerous at night for cyclists. These conditions make hand signalling quite difficult, so Henry wanted to build an indicator for his bike that would allow him to communicate with drivers without letting go of the handlebars for a significant amount of time.

From seeing other projects people have done on a simple LED box that can do animations, this gave Henry the idea to use an array of LED strips in his bike indicator, programming the LED strips to display arrows or flashing animation to signal to cars.

He then took this idea to Unleash Space, where he began making his device and programming the LEDs using equipment and materials available in the Create and Maker Space. There, he learnt how to use much of the maker space equipment, in particular the laser cutter and soldering station which he used for his bike indicator project, as well as learning other skills related to his project such as coding and gluing. The Creative Technologists in the Create and Maker Space were also helpful for Henry’s project, helping him develop his idea from simply adding LED strips to his helmet to a laser cut box with LED arrays. They also gave Henry tips on which library to use for coding the LEDs and how to waterproof his device.

By identifying the problem, coming up with a potential solution, and testing the solution by making the physical product, Henry has undergone the processes of a true innovator. Henry has gone from wanting to make biking at night easier to making a working bike indicator that will help solve this problem. There are still small improvements here and there Henry would like to work on, such as coding arrow animations and ways to communicate other messages such as breaking or warning, but constant iteration and improvement is all part of the journey of an innovator!

If you want to use Unleash Space for your own innovative projects, you can sign up to our newsletter, come and gain access to the Create and Maker Space, or book an equipment training session for our equipment if you have already gained access to the Create and Maker Space.