Introduction: Hacking the Latest Version of Staples 'Easy' Button and Build a Simple Physical Activity Reminder Tool

  • I was following this instructable to hack the Staples Easy Button and build a tool that reminds me every 15 minutes to be physically active. The button that I purchased from Staples had internal circuitry that was somewhat different from the one explained in the instructable. Hence I decided to document the hacking of the latest version of the Staples button.
  • The label on the package indicated that the button was manufactured in March 2015. Hence my assumption is that I have the latest version of the Staples 'Easy' button. I am not going to describe disassembling the button since it is well documented in the above linked instructable and eliminating redundancy.

Things needed for this instructable:

  1. The Staples Easy Button
  2. Phillips head screw driver
  3. A 10 K resistor
  4. Soldering iron+soldering lead, other accessories etc.

Optional items required for the physical activity reminder tool:

  1. ESP12-E WiFI development board
  2. A couple of wires

Step 1: Disassembly of the Button and Observation of the Internal Circuitry

  1. The internal circuitry of the button is shown in the photograph along with a schematic representation. It turns out that the button was pulled up using a 2M ohm resistor to 3V. The other terminal of the button was connected to an unknown chip sealed using epoxy.
  2. The voltage at the junction of the button/pull up resistor turned out to be 1V and this was way too low for my needs. I was trying to interface it to a microcontroller that runs at 3.3V levels. Hence this had to be addressed.

Step 2: Replacing the 2M Ohm Resistor With a 10K Ohm Resistor

  1. The main reason behind replacing the resistor was that the voltage drop
    across the 2M ohm resistor was way too high to detect high/low levels using a microcontroller.

    I desoldered the 2M ohm resistor (higlighted with a red rectangle in the picture) by heating the pads and soldering lead.

  2. I soldered a 10K resistor across the 2M resistor pads ( I only had through hole resistors).
  3. This seems to have solved the problem! The pull-up voltage at the button was 3.1V. Now I was able to interface this button to a microcontroller. I was able to detect 'high' and 'low' states when the button is pressed/released.

Now this could button could be used in any project that needs a gigantic button. It is especially useful in building connected devices. I hope that this instructable helps someone to hack the button for their own needs.

Step 3: Building the Physical Activity Motivation Tool

  1. The physical activity motivation tool works as follows: The button along with a buzzer is interfaced to the ESP8266 development board and installed in the opposite corner of the house. The buzzer goes off every 15/30 minutes. This would force me to get up and go turn of the buzzer using the Staples button. This would help me avoid sitting at my workbench hours together.
  2. The ESP8266 is a wireless chip that enables connecting sensors to the internet to log data or control appliances from anywhere in the internet.
  3. The schematic of the project is shown in the picture. The button is interfaced to GPIO4 (pin 2) while the buzzer is interfaced to GPIO 16 (pin 0).
  4. The wired setup is shown in the picture. I programmed the ESP8266 chip using a combination of two simple code samples. (Sample 1 and Sample 2).
  5. The code is available for download from here.
  6. The Lua Loader is needed to upload the script to the ESP8266 development board. The tutorial along with the instructions to upload the script is available from here.

Some ideas to consider:

Since the WiFi chip connects to your wireless network, you could consider logging your physically activity using websites like IFTTT to save the triggers to a Google Drive Document.


gravityisweak (author)2015-09-01

Cool! I'd love to see this button hacked to produce different sounds, or maybe to adjust the speed of its current sound. Thanks for sharing this!

sai-y (author)gravityisweak2015-09-01

Yeah. I will try to include one such example. Thanks

tomatoskins (author)2015-09-01

This is great! You should enter it into the Remix Contest.

sai-y (author)tomatoskins2015-09-01

Thanks. I was not aware of this contest. I will try to join the contest.