Game Show Buzzer System

I recently completed a build for a client that I’m calling a “Game Show Buzzer System” because, well… that’s what they asked for. The requirements were a system with two buzzers, green and red, that when pressed each played a different sound. They also wanted a light controlled, as they were going to build this all into a podium for some game show broadcast on the Internet.

At first they asked for colored light strips, so I was going to use NeoPixels, but then they switched to wanting to control a DMX light. I didn’t have a DMX light handy so I got the cheapest one on Amazon to start doing development with. Meanwhile they shipped me a very nice professional DMX light. I got the code working on my cheap light, but once moved over to the good light it didn’t work without some tweaking. Different DMX lights operate differently, duly noted.

The electronics live in a 3D printed enclosure. This probably took more time than the code. (But since code is often reused, that’s not surprising.) This project came together pretty quickly, but if it hadn’t I probably would have spent more time on the enclosure. It’s not bad, it just has a few things that annoy me about it. Everything is labeled, which is good, because it is possible to plug the 3.5mm plugs into the wrong place.

The top features a knob and small display which are used to set the reset time for the unit after a button is pressed. The client thought that 30 seconds for the reset might be good, but while discussing it there was concern that might be too long, so I suggested a way to adjust it.

The large buttons use 3.5mm jacks and cables to connect. Since TRS cables have three connections, they’re perfect for items with GND, a button, and an LED. This also allows for the client to easily swap cables if these are too long or too short.

The client provided the sounds. (Well, links to YouTube videos with the sounds.) If they ever want to replace the sounds, or the SD card fails, it can be easily accessed. I didn’t have time to make a door or panel for this, so I covered it with gaff tape before I shipped it.

A peek at the inside. It’s a little tight, but there’s a lot going on in there. I ended up making my own “shield” to connect everything because, this was a rush project, but it all works, even if it’s not the prettiest thing I’ve built. I did about 4 days of testing before shipping it out. It all works, and it was a fun and challenging build. Neat!


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!


Kickstarter: Gameduino


The most interesting Kickstarter project I’ve come across recently has to be Gameduino:

Gameduino connects your Arduino to a VGA monitor and speakers, so anyone who can write an Arduino sketch can create video games. It’s packed full of 8-bit game goodness: hundreds of sprites, smooth scrolling, multi-channel stereo sound.

James Bowman was hoping to raise $3,333 to do a manufacturing run of the Gameduino, but with the deadline tomorrow, it’s now at $35,253 raised. Amazing!

I also think the pledge levels were chosen wisely…

$3 or more gets you a zip file containing all the raw video and audio.

$53 or more gets you a Gameduino from the production run, assembled and tested.

$113 or more gets you a Gameduino, a printed reference poster, a joystick, and an Arduino Uno, preloaded with the Asteroids game.

$263 or more gets you all of the above, plus your 64-byte message burned into an easter-egg section of every Gameduino’s boot ROM. (8 of these were available.)

$433 or more gets you all of the above, plus the Arduino preloaded with a game of your devising. Just supply the graphics, describe gameplay, and I’ll have a weekend hackathon to put it on the Gameduino. (4 of these available.)


At the base, you can toss $3 towards the effort, just to show your support and help make things happen. For $53 you get an actual Gameduino from the production run. One would hope that they do more production runs, based on the money raised, I’d say that’s a sure bet. But will it cost more or less than $53 next time? If you don’t want to risk it costing more, or you just want to be one of the first to have one, this is a great option.

And for the people who really want to support the project, there were 12 higher-end support options, 4 of which get you custom game development. (All of them sold out.)

Also worth noting: The Gameduino is open-source hardware (BSD license) and all its code is GPL licensed. Nice! This means that once it’s created, others should be able to build and sell them as well. I’d expect kits to appear in the future.

Check out the Gameduino project page for a sweet video showing it’s capabilities, and if you want one, hurry up and pledge today!


Scrabble for iPad


I could probably condense my entire post about Scrabble for the iPad into 3 words:

Scrabble. In. Bed.

But I’m not one to quit after 3 words, so I’ll ramble on for 3 more paragraphs.

The wife and I are Scrabble fans, but two things prevent us from playing this time of year. First, we usually have to sit at the kitchen table to play. The kitchen table is fine for enjoying Chicken Tikka Masala, but I’m not a fan of sitting there to play games. Second, our house is cold… really cold… and in the evening the warmest place is in bed, under the electric blanket, so being able to play Scrabble in the comfort of a nice warm bed is ideal. You play Scrabble on the iPad by taking your turn and then passing the iPad to the other player for their turn.

But Scrabble on the iPad isn’t just limited to playing in bed. You could probably also play on the couch, at the park, in the car, or anywhere else a Scrabble board won’t easily go, like the International Space Station.

When Scrabble for the iPad first came out (which was long before I had an iPad) I joked that I could convince my wife the iPad was the greatest invention ever because you could play Scrabble on it… I’m still working on convincing her, but I think I’m getting closer.