Pencil Game

After learning about Arduino programming and switches in the lab last week, I wanted to make my own custom switch. The lab taught us how to program the Arduino to change between 2 LEDs when a switch is pressed, which, although thrilling to me as an electronics novice, is probably not that exciting to the everyday person. Since the result of the switch isn’t that entertaining, I decided that I wanted the actual experience of using the switch to be fun instead.

My first idea was to modify a Wooly Willy┬áby adding wire ends to the sides of his face, so that when you give Willy a mustache or a beard, it would complete a simple circuit and switch from a red LED (labeled “dweeb”) to a green LED (“cool guy”). Unfortunately, when I did surgery on the toy and freed the metal filings, they turned out to not be conductive. I tried the same thing with 2 other types of magnetic filings, and none of them worked – they weren’t dense enough to carry a charge.

Mysterious, unreliable metal loafing around and totally refusing to conduct.

After panicking for a while, I came up with an idea for a game where you drag a pencil through a thin path surrounded by aluminum foil, and if the pencil lead touches the foil a red light goes off, signifying a loss. I brought in aluminum foil and cut a spare piece of plywood to match the foil’s width. I glued paper to the top of the plywood, and then traced and cut out a thin maze-like path in the foil terminating in a large goal area.

A drawing of the path, pre-cutting.

After cutting the foil, I glued it to the paper backdrop, and I embedded a wire end into the upper-right corner. I then took a pencil, and struggled for at least half an hour trying to reliably affix another small wire end to an equally small nub of pencil lead. After I finally got it, the lead broke. At this point, I decided to just curve the end of the wire around the broken nub so that it was more of a stylus than a pencil.

The very elegantly constructed pencil (pre-breaking-completely).

I then added a piezo that buzzes when you make a mistake and hit the aluminum foil, and I adjusted my code so that it allows you 6 mistakes before the game plays a funeral dirge and stops operating.

Here’s a video of the completed project: