Monday, December 21, 2015

Spaceship Control Panel

My family went up to Washington State on vacation, and while there we went to a children's museum. They had a mock police car, fire truck, ambulance, and helicopter that kids could go in and play with the many controls. Some switches would turn lights on and off, others would play sounds. My son absolutely loved it. He needed one of his own. I made a big order off Adafruit the next day.

And what better thing to build than a spaceship control panel?

I want to create it such that it can be expanded in the future as he gets older. Then instead of just toggling lights and playing canned sounds, he would actually have to follow certain procedures to make things happen.

It's nowhere near this guy's creation:
But it's sufficient for my son now, and it will get better. :-)

For this first iteration I won't get too complicated. I'll have a variety of inputs that control lights and sounds. I actually put a lot of time into which buttons and switches to have. The Apollo sim I linked to above it awesome, but I want my son to be able to replicate future space travel among the stars ("Foundation" style). So the controls I ultimately went with could be used for privateers smuggling cargo across the Confederation, battling Romulans near the neutral zone, or searching for the mythical planet Earth. At this point the buttons will repeat the same sounds every time you push them, but when my son gets older I can tie in a microcontroller to put more logic in the responses.

The Components

1 - 2'x2' 1/4" Birch Sheet (Lowes)
3 - Power On/Off Switch (Radio Shack)
2 - Red Toggle Button (Radio Shack)
2 - Protected Switch (Radio Shack)
9 - SPST 5VDC Reed Relay (Radio Shack)
6 - 16mm Illuminated Pushbutton - Red Momentary (Adafruit)
11 - Diffused White 10mm LED (Adafruit)
1 - LED Illuminated Pushbutton - 30mm Round (Adafruit)
1 - Audio FX Sound Board - WAV/OGG Trigger with 16MB Flash (Adafruit)
1 - USB Powered Speakers (Adafruit)
1 - 5V 2A (2000mA) switching power supply (Adafruit)
1 - Breadboard-friendly 2.1mm DC barrel jack (Adafruit)
1 - 5V 2A Switching Power Supply w/ USB-A Connector (Adafruit)
1 - Kindle Fire (Amazon)
1 - IKEA Side Table (IKEA)
Lots of 22 Gauge Solid Core Wire & Resistors

The Build

Measure and drill some holes... I also cut a large opening for the tablet screen...

Painted white with the controls mounted...

A spare IKEA side table was a quick way to give it a stable base.

Wiring it up...

(Yeah I know the wires are a mess. There is plenty of slack to get them tidied up, but the time to do so is limited.)

Final Product

I found a 3-D space program on the Kindle that is absolutely perfect for the control panel.

The primary and emergency light switches currently just toggle their white LEDs, but eventually I'll have them control 120V external lighting. (I've got some relays that can close a 120V A/C circuit with just 3V.)

The shield, cargo bay, and tractor beam switches toggle their corresponding white LEDs and close a relay for the Audio FX board to play an appropriate sound.

The Visual Scanner, Radar Scanner, Initiate Takeoff, and Initiate Landing buttons are all momentary buttons. While pressed, the white LED illuminates and the Audio FX board plays an appropriate sound. When released the LED extinguishes.

The weapon systems are probably the most complicated. The red momentary buttons are only illuminated (and functional) if the protected arming switches are raised. Pressing them causes some nice launch effects to be played.

The Initiate Warp Speed button is always illuminated, but it plays a nice sound effect when pressed.

There is always room for improvement, but for now my son is happy and occupied for a little longer each day! :-)