Introduction: Nice Mouse (School)bus Toy
I wanted to create a nice toy to be used with a Dutch computer interaction play for toddlers called MooiMuis (NiceMouse). This audio game can be played on the website of Tim Hoogendijk. He designed this game, which only involves interaction using voice and the computer mouse, to be played with a mini wireless (Bluetooth) mouse, covered with a paper cut out model of a bus. In the game, the child can drive the bus around, while getting instructions from the computer. (Only available in Dutch so far)
I did not have a mini mouse but instead wanted to use a leftover mouse (from a dead computer) I had lying around, a classic PS/2 type Microsoft Intellimouse and convert that into a bus of some kind. I was thinking what kind of material I could use to make a bus out of this mouse, and finally came up with the idea of using modeling paste, which is fun to use for children as well. Here is how it goes.
Step 1: Preparing the Mouse
First, I sawed off the not so useful section of the mouse that would not fit in the form of the bus. If you would have to do so, be careful not to harm the electronics inside the mouse, and remove any dust or small plastic particles from the inside. Then tape off this section and the mouse buttons as well.
Step 2: Modeling the Bus
You can use modeling clay or paste to make the bus. I used a 1 kg package. You can use some standard modeling tools or just use your hands. We (my son and I) used the complete lump as a massive form, but if I were to do it again I would use a tube or some kind of mold (toilet roll maybe) to create a hollow form. Modeling paste has to dry in the air for a minimum of 24 hours, but a massive piece such as this takes a lot more time to dry completely. A massive piece is also rather heavy to drive around, we noticed, which may be not so clever an idea for a child of about 4 years old to handle. Anyway, in the game the driver does not get carried away and just drives around slowly. The mouse buttons are used too, so they should form the front of the bus and stick outside. I had them covered with removable tape, not to get any modeling paste messing up the click function.
Note: it is important that the lower side of the bus will stay as flat as possible, otherwise the mouse (in this case the classic ball type) will not function properly any longer. You can roll the roof of the bus to get a nice round top.
Step 3: Finishing the Model
To finish the toy mouse, we used a standard kind of acrylic paint in just two colors, yellow and black, the traditional school bus colors, and decided it should resemble a schoolbus somewhat (my son thought it looked more like a train than a bus though). So after the modeling paste has completely dried, you can paint your bus. Be careful again with the mouse buttons. If any paint will get them stuck, remove the paint with a small knife or needle. To complete your toy, you can add some stickers or whatever you want. It was clearly not our objective to make a perfect model (you will need to assist your child with the modeling and certainly with the painting). But is a fun way to hide a mouse in a toy. We tested it with the software tool and it worked!
(and yes, this mouse has the disadvantage of having a 'tail' - and so does the bus. Just fantasize it is being towed or something...)
Tip: to drive the bus more smoothly, you may need to put some soft tape underneath, like the soft side of velcro. The tape should not be thicker than the sliders of the mouse.