Light Racer


My kids love arcades where you can win tickets and buy prizes. Some of their favorite ways to win tickets are the various games with speeding lights zooming around a circle with a big button that stops the action and dispenses tickets. The ultimate goal is the jackpot light, which of course is bordered by the lowest value lights… timing is everything.

This year, as a prelude to our annual pilgrimage to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, we designed and built training boxes. The guts (pictured above), include an Arduino Uno, 16 LEDs, a momentary switch and a 9v battery. Supporting systems include a potentiometer, assorted resistors and a very satisfying on-off switch. Everything is housed inside an aluminum project box that looks pretty good and relatively easy to work (except with is comes to anchoring anything that is not surface mounted).

Below is a video that shows the assembled boxes in action. The game has 16 different speed settings (controlled by the potentiometer) and 16 levels. Each time you stop the light on the final LED, you advance a level. If you miss that last spot three times in a row, you get knocked back a level. Finish all 16 levels and you get a fun little bonus.

Building your own toys

The kids really enjoyed designing and building their own electronic toy.

At ages 7 and 9, they are getting a good sense of what makes some of their other toys tick and are getting exposed to the benefits of iterative prototyping. Based on their feedback to the first version of the boxes, we replaced a micro pot on the inside of the box with the beefy, surface mounted knob next to the on-off switch in this version.

They also love the idea that in a couple months we can tear the whole thing down and build a different toy. We already have plans for some toys connect in a wireless mesh network for multiplayer games.

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