Saphira 2.0

Who is Saphira?

Saphira is a female dragon and one of the principal characters in the Inheritance series of novels by Christopher Paolini. She is bonded to Eragon Shadeslayer, her rider, in the book Eragon. Her name is like the word sapphire, and describes her iridescent blue color.

How Does Saphira Work?

Motion: Saphira can raise and lower her spine and her wings, can turn her head from side to side, and can open her mouth. She also has the ability to move on a wheeled robotic platform.

Saphira’s spine, wings, and head move with the help of pneumatic cylinders, which are driven by compressed air. A solenoid valve controls each pneumatic cylinder under the control of a Raspberry Pi microcontroller. The operator uses a joystick to control Saphira’s motion.

Saphira’s wheeled robotic base is controlled with a thumb-operated joystick. The joystick position is read by an Arduino Duemilanove microcontroller which drives two VEX Robotics motor controllers, which in turn drive two electric motors

Fire: Saphira can shoot a five-foot burst of flame.

The fire control operator manages the fire-breathing capabilities of Saphira. To be safe, Saphira will only breathe fire when she is stationary and her neck and head are fully extended. The fire control operator turns on a hot surface ignitor (like the one in your home furnace), and after the ignitor is hot, presses a button to release a burst of propane gas which passes over the ignitor and ignites. To create a larger fireball, a second, empty propane tank is connected in series with the main propane tank. This second tank allows a larger volume of gaseous propane to accumulate, making Saphira’s fire even more impressive.

Sound: Saphira can roar and recite quotations from Eragon.

A box with six arcade buttons lets the sound operator choose between a roar that accompanies Saphira’s flame, or a quotation from Eragon. The sound is produced by a Sparkfun Electronics MP3 Player Shield and an Arduino Uno. All roars and quotations were recorded and digitally processed by our Young Makers.

Saphira’s Maker Faire History

Saphira debuted at Maker Faire 2010 and was built by Alex Jacobson, Sam DeRose, Joseph DeRose, with mentors Tony DeRose and David Jacobson. Saphira’s original Makers are now Team Viper, and are showing their incredible Viper Flight Simulator just down the Midway from Saphira. Be sure to check out their work!

In 2013, Silicon Valley Young Makers acquired Saphira and turned her into Saphira 2.0. Our enhancements are:

  • Redesigned wings with larger wingspan and fiberglass skin

  • Larger castle wall

  • Neck skin

  • Improved base stability

  • Robotic base (with help from the St. Francis Robotics Team in Mountain View)

  • Improved solenoid driver circuitry

  • New Raspberry Pi control system and software

  • Rebuilt pneumatic system

  • New dragon eyes

  • And… Saphira is blue!

About Silicon Valley Young Makers

We’re building a community of young makers in the heart of Silicon Valley that brings together like-minded young people, adult mentors, and fabrication facilities. Mentors help Young Makers find a project vision if they don’t already have one, and then work with youth to realize that vision. Along the way mentors expose the underlying math, science, and engineering principles behind the projects and teach tool usage and safety. Collectively the members and mentors foster a collaborative culture of creativity, innovation, and experimentation. Maker Faire becomes the deadline and offers a stage for the resulting projects to be exhibited and explained.

Team Saphira 2013 Is:

Megan Marinchak (Wing Design and Construction, Eyes, Painting), Sandy Marinchak (Saphira Tee-Shirt Design, Eyes, Painting), Malik Deslauriers (Driver Board, Pnuematics, Wing Construction, Mobile Base, Roaring Sounds), James Good (Sound System, Saphira Voice, Driver Board), Wing Construction, Mobile Base), Peter Coish (Wing Construction, Painting), Jasper Fung – Raspberry Pi Control Software, Mark Grivnin (Wing Construction, Painting), Paul Pierantozzi, Felix Nordmark (Wing Construction, Painting).