If you have ever watched a TV quiz show you have probably seen contestants trying to press a button in order to win a chance to answer a question. The contestant’s quick reaction time results in some kind of light and/or sound indicating victory. This is a practical way to choose the next focus of the game’s activity and it adds a bit of excitement to the process. So when my company's holiday party planning committee decided to have a trivia contest I decided to build a quiz contestant lockout system to add an extra dimension of fun to the festivities. This would help the planning committee’s mission of creating some entertaining activities for the event.
The minimum requirements were to have a system with multiple buttons that contestants press for a chance to answer a question. The first one to press the button would lock out the other contestants. The system would need to have a simple way to quickly identify who pushed their button first. And finally the system would need to be reset for the next round.
Considering the venue of the holiday party (an upscale wine bar) I felt that the contestant buttons would be one of the most important features. They needed to be hefty and able to withstand abuse by hoards of “beverage enhanced” partygoers. Fortunately I had encountered a really good contestant button candidate while visiting the local office supply store. Staples’ “Easy Button”, as made famous in their humorous ad campaign, is available in their stores. This device is a palm sized button modeled after the one seen in the Staples commercials. It is battery operated with a speaker that says “That was easy” when the button is pressed. It is well made and the ideal shape and size for use by a quiz contestant.
Given that the button is a self-contained electronic device I was confident that I could open it up and extend the switch functionality to the system I was building. The $5 cost was reasonable for the quality of the item. Plus Staples is donating the proceeds from the sale of their Easy Buttons (up to $1,000,000.00) to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. So, planning to build a system that would allow four contestants to play at once, I grabbed four of these and left the store feeling good about my purchase for a number of reasons.
Now that I had the contestant user interface worked out I needed to decide how to implement the system functionality. Due to time constraints this needed to be done with material I already had. This turned out to be an Arduino Uno, one of Adafruit’s Proto Shield kits and some miscellaneous parts. This intro section includes a picture of the completed system that I dubbed the “Quiz-O-Tron 3000” (QT3K for short).