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Reaction Game with micro:bit

I built a simple game for Brown Dog Gadgets which will test your reaction time. The basic concept is this: A series of LEDs will light up in sequence, and when the fourth LED is lit you need to press the button. If you time it right you’ll get a point! When you get 25 points you’ll win the game! But wait! Each time you press the button successfully the game will speed up… and if you press the button at the wrong time you’re score will go down.

It’s a fun and easy build for the classroom or at home, and once again we’ve got a micro:bit controlling things. (Though it would be very easy to port this to an Arduino or another microcontroller.) We’re building on LEGO because that’s how the Crazy Circuits system works. We sometimes joke that these are PCBs or “Plastic Circuit Boards”.

After creating the Reaction Game (7 Segment Version) we came up with two variations, one that uses the build-in LED matrix on the micro:bit instead of our 7 Segment Display (the Reaction Game (LED Version)) and then we got even more minimal and built a paper circuit version with even less parts, the Reaction Game (Paper Version).

As always, we’re publishing these resources for those who purchase our kits, and also for everyone else. You are free to take the ideas and run with them, make your own thing, and while credit is always nice, supporting Brown Dog Gadgets by purchasing things helps us to continue offering these resources. I mean, in the last year I’ve published over 100 guides and templates for freeeeeee….. We appreciate your support!

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100 Guides for Brown Dog Gadgets

Back in March 2020 things were… weird, right? But that’s when I started writing guides for Brown Dog Gadgets. The guides and resources are free for anyone to use, and we hope that people like the guides, find them useful, and support us by purchasing from the BDG shop.

One year of projects! While you should definitely check out the whole Project Database, if you want to see all of my projects they’re listed on my profile page.

I added screen shots below showing them all. Oh, there’s a few I didn’t write, and just updated it, but there are a few new ones not listed here, so it’s still over 100. :)

The projects range from paper circuits, switches, greeting cards, no-sew wearables circuits, Arduino projects, and lots of micro:bit projects. I’ve learned a lot of new things along the way, and I think I’ve become pretty good at writing guides! For each guide I usually do the writing (copy and code), illustrations, photography, and video. It’s a great mix that covers many of my skills, and I like doing it.

And while I’m not great at math, 100 guides in about a year is an average of two guides per week. Not bad! Here’s to the next year of guides.

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Bit Board & micro:bit Powered Step Sequencer

The first guide I published for Brown Dog Gadgets was a step sequencer using their Arduino-compatible Robotics Board back in April 2020. You may also remember my WMSE sculpture that was a step sequencer, and I never did a write-up on it, but I also built a step sequencer for an interactive museum exhibit years ago, which was kid-tough and focused on sequencing as a form of programming.

Anyway, since it was nearly a year from the first Crazy Circuits step sequencer I think I should revisit it as a micro:bit project. So here’s a guide to building a Bit Board & micro:bit Powered Step Sequencer.

The code was written using Microsoft MakeCode for micro:bit, a block-based programming environment, which also supports Javascript and Python in text modes. It’s been interesting working in a block-based programming system, and I’ve gotten used to it in the past six months. I do really like the fact that you can toggle between block view and text view.

I’ve got a lot more micro:bit projects I’ve worked on in recent months, which you can check out in the Brown Dog Gadgets Project Database.

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Slide Advance Alert System (with MIDI)

Here’s a project I did a while ago, but never documented here… At Brown Dog Gadgets we do a lot of video streaming for workshops, and our setup includes one person on camera and another person as the producer who runs the software, monitors the chat window, and does the camera switching and advances the slides.

We started talking about an easy way for the person on camera to let the producer know when to advance to the next slide without having to say “Next slide, please” 20 times each session. Our video software can easily control the slides by using the left and right arrow keys, so we thought about just making a small USB controller the presenter could use to send those key commands, but that only works if the video streaming software has focus as the frontmost application, and since we’re running multiple pieces of presenting software as well as a browser we can’t rely on key commands to work.

So what I came up with is a simple controller that sends MIDI signals to a custom application that plays a sound which the producer can hear through their headphones, and know that it’s time to change the slide. (The application also has a small window that displays “Waiting…”, “Forward”, or “Back” depending on the state of the controls.)

The great thing about MIDI is that it doesn’t rely on a specific application being frontmost… Yes, we could have used serial communications, but we’d need to then select the correct serial port, which changes depending on which USB port you use, hubs, computer, etc.

We’ve got a guide in the Brown Dog Gadgets Project system, and we also dropped it onto Instructables if you want your own Slide Advancement Alerting Device.

This is a niche solution to a niche problem, but that seems to be what I’m good at, so I’m just gonna go with it.

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Valentine’s Day Cards

I cranked out a bunch of paper circuit Valentine’s Day Cards for Brown Dog Gadgets. These can all be made with the Paper Circuits Kit which features conductive Maker Tape, tons of LEDs, batteries, and other supplies. Add all the free templates and resources and you’ve got yourself a good time.

Heart Friend Valentine’s Card

I LOVE U Valentine’s Card

Picture You and Me Together Valentine’s Card

The Cake is a Lie Valentine’s Card

You’ve Got Mail Valentine’s Card

Human Heart Valentine’s Card

You’re Aces Valentine’s Card