My Pittsburgh Maker Faire Project


(Note: Looks like I got some recognition for this project. In case you’re wondering, Stuffed Cabbage Inc. is not a real company. It’s just a domain name I picked because I really like the stuffed cabbage my great grandmother used to make. My real name is Christian Restifo.)

So, if you know what Maker Faire is, you know how awesome it is. If you don’t, imagine a festival where people who like to build things, hack electronics, make things the spit fire, do cool interactive art pieces, and the like get together for a couple of days to show off what they do.

I’ve been to the Detroit Maker Faire several times, and I actually presented my dreidel lights at the first Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire (which is essentially a smaller version of a full Maker Faire).

Well, they’ve upgraded it to a full Pittsburgh Maker Faire, and I will be demonstrating what I’m calling the Symonator, an homage to the original Simon electronic game. You know, the one with four buttons where you have to follow a growing, repeating pattern.

Only I think 4 buttons is not enough.

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What you see here is Symonator all lit up. There are 16 buttons, each with 4 WS2812 leds. Adafruit sells these as Neopixels. (Uncompensated plug: if you wanted to get started with these, buy them from Adafruit. They make it easy.) Each button is about 8″ square, or about the size of, well, my hand. The colors are fully customizable, so any square could be any color. Each button has a 22 mm industrial push button switch inside (that’s the big dot in the middle you see) along with additional springs, the leds, wiring, and some plastic “stops”.

To start this project off, I first whipped up a quick prototype switch to check out the concept.

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This is just a wooden body with an acrylic top and a few leds. I was just trying to see how it would feel. Satisfied with this, I designed and laser cut a full acrylic version. I also tried putting aluminum foil in to see if that could help diffuse the light. It didn’t.

 

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I finally settled on a design that I liked. Here’s the internals with springs that help the 22 mm push button switch and keep things balanced.

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Oh, by the way, those springs are all hand made. How do you do this? A drill, a shaft, and piano wire. Secure the wire to the shaft in the chuck, and turn the drill on until you have the right size spring.

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I bought the leds as individual pieces and reflow soldered them to some custom circuit boards that I had designed for another project. This set up lets me quickly changed leds if they should break or malfunction after someone bangs on them.

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Here are a bunch of buttons ready for wiring.

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And here’s what they looked like before gluing together.

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I then built a frame to hold all of these.

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Here the frame is flipped upside down while gluing to make sure the switches all fit. I then glued in some support “beams” to hold the switches up when right side up. And here it is once again all lit up.

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Physically, I just have to wire up the push button switches to the ATMega2560 I’m using to control it. I’ve already tested the inputs directly on the 2560, and it works well. Now on to programming!

The Pittsburgh Maker Faire takes places October 10 and 11, 2015 at the Buhl Community Park. Get your tickets here.

And if you come, stop by and play Symonator!

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