STEAM Carnival electronics and stuff

A modern take on the traveling circus, STEAM Carnival is an entertainment showcase using high-tech amusement and project-based kits to inspire kids of all ages about science, technology, engineering, art and math.
— Two Bit Circus

I was part of the core team at Two Bit Circus that built interactive entertainment for the first STEAM Carnival in October 2014.

Two Bit has been building games around walls of buttons since the beginning, and the hardware and software have been constantly evolving. I worked on a couple iterations of the board that connect the main controller to the the buttons and LEDs.

The blue PCB below connects to a raspberry pi’s GPIO headers and has 4 x 16 channel i2c IO expanders. Half of them are used as inputs to read the button states and the other half go to darlington transistor arrays to drive the LEDs inside the buttons.

This is a controller that is part of a group game built around the Intel Edison. I worked with Aaron Thomen to design and build these pretty quickly. The puck-shaped top is mounted to a spring connected to a handle. The guts are simple, there’s a tilt switch and three big LEDs. The Edisons are all on a wifi network so an app on computer defines the gameplay.

We sourced an acrylic tube, I designed the board to fit and laser cut the rest of the structure. Aaron designed the handle in a way that the spring tension could be adjusted.

This is a shield I made for an Intel Galileo (or arduino uno) that allow it to be used like a Makey Makey. Each pad on the board is pulled up to the controller’s operating voltage through a high value resistor, so the controller can detect when something more conductive (like your skin) bridges the button to ground through the bottom stripe.

This is just a big pile of laser pointers zip tied to laser cut mounts that are bolted to truss clamps. Everyone likes lasers.

The above board was used in a few games, it holds a teensy 3.1 microcontroller and breaks out data pins to multiple devices that can be plugged in with rj12 phone jacks. There are buffer chips to bump up the teensy’s 3.3V outputs to 5V for controlling ws2812 LEDs and also voltage dividers that can be configured if necessary. It’s a convenient way to interface a variety of hardware with a computer over serial.

The game of musical chairs above was the first intended use case for the board, the chairs have addressable LEDs inside and force sensitive resistors under the cushions to detect where people are sitting. The photo under that shows a game controlled by wooden ship wheels connected to encoders that used the same board.