Planning a build

I have not built anything electronic since mid-1990’s, then we were a group of kids renting a basement to have somewhere to hang out and hack stuff.

I have been toying with a though for a while, to build a sort of a game for my son. I saw something somewhere where someone had built a simple memory game where buttons blinked in a random pattern and the player were supposed to repeat the pattern, each successful attempt increased the number of buttons to push, making the sequence longer and longer. Good for training your memory.

The next logical step would be a reaction-game, where all buttons flash, goes dark, one lit up and you have to push it as fast as possible.

I’ve been thinking about what would be needed to build such a game, that is rugged enough to not break within 15 minutes in the hands of a 3-4 year old. I found a suitable box at IKEA, I found the other components on AliExpress.

1 x Grey plastic box
1 x Arduino UNO
4 x Arcade style push buttons with LED illumination
4 x 1 meter ribbon cables for push buttons
4 x MOSFETs to drive LEDs in push buttons
2 x power supplies for driving Arduino and LEDs, 240V->5V, 240V->12V
2 x MP3 player modules for music and samples
1 x TTS Text-to-speech module for announcing score
1 x Speech detector module to trigger TTS for comments

As I’m still waiting for components, I’ve started to write (some of) the code to drive the game, read up on specs and pin-outs of the modules, I have an idea about how to connect the parts, some part as still a bit in the unknown zone.

I think the TTS module will kick some ass, from spec it supports English and Chinese (which I don’t know), with 9 different voices in all different kind of pitches, I could probably tweak it to emit something that sounds like Swedish. I used to play around with the speech synthesis on the Amiga 2000 in the end of the eighties, trying to make it say profanities in Swedish .. some came out good, some didn’t.

The MOSFETs are necessary to drive the LEDs in the buttons as they require some more juice (and/or voltage) than what the Arduino can deliver as I want to be able to lit up 1, 2 or all of them at once, without the MOSFETs I’d break the board, letting the magic smoke out.

The MP3 player modules were added because I think it would give the game some kind of Arcade game-feeling, I intend to collect or sample NES 8-bit games and perhaps hunt down MOD-tunes to play during game-play, with a secondary MP3 player module I can also add sound effects.

The voice detector module was a fun idea around the TTS module, to make the detector trigger the TTS to say something random, like “you can do better” or “hey, focus!”.

When done building and documenting, I also intend on holding some kind of tech-lunch at the office, demonstrating and explain how and what has been done, to inspire colleagues to not settle for cloud applications on their Raspberry Pi’s with ready made components that just needs to be stitched together – doing real electronics without wifi or RJ-45 connectors.

Later on, when all the stuff has arrived and when I have started building, I will blog about it, with pictures documenting the process and with source code for the Arduino and schematics of how the parts are wired together. A BOM with costs and where to find the parts.

But most of all, I look forward to seeing my son play with it. I’ve already seen that he has an interest in technology and he asks me “why?” and “how?” about stuff, forcing me to explain sometimes very complex or technical stuff in a really simple way to keep his attention and interest. When he is mature enough I will do my best to teach him programming and build more stuff together.