Introduction: Quiz Show Buzzer System Using Staples Easy Button
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**UPDATE** It has come to my attention that the board of the current Staples easy button has changed over the years and is no longer the same as the one I used for this Instructable back in 2009. Due both to time constraints and the fact that I no longer use the original system I created, I do not plan on updating this entry. However, I am going to leave it up for those who may wish to reference it for their own projects (to my knowledge, the general premise still works - just find something else to use as the button). Cheers. 14-Jan-2014
My first instructable!
As a college instructor, I often enjoy doing review games - especially using PowerPoint for a Jeopardy! format. However, sometimes it's hard to see students' hands and the commercial buzzer systems are very expensive. I found a very basic game show circuit board at an electronics store, but the buttons were so small that it would never work for a team-style game. So I got the idea to use Staples Easy Buttons from another website that showed how to turn one into your garage door opener. These work great for team jeopardy because the entire team can sit around 1 button.
A few trips to Radio Shack and voila!
This is a lockout system, which means that once one person has pushed their button, it prevents anyone else from triggering their light. There is also a reset button for the moderator to "clear the board."
Total cost for a commercial system: ~$300
Total cost for this homemade option: ~$60
Bonus: I've attached a PowerPoint file that can be used as a Jeopardy template. All $$ on the main board are hyperlinked to the appropriate slide in the presentation. The small outlined arrow in the lower right corner of the home board links to final Jeopardy. I've also attached various Jeopardy .wav sounds for inclusion also.
Disclaimer: I am somewhat inexperienced with electronics parts/soldering - mostly self-taught - so I apologize for any sloppy work in the photos.
Step 1: What You Need
Most of the parts can be purchased at Radio Shack or from other electronics suppliers. I've included links where applicable. Prices and links are accurate as of 12/15/09:
Game show/quiz buzzer circuit kit ~$15
(Note: I also found this at a small electronics store in town)
4 x Staples Easy Buttons - $4.99/ea
6"x4"x2" Project box - $4.99
4 LED lights (I used 10mm ultra bright red ones) - $1.79/2 pk
5 LED holders - $1.49/2 pk
Slide switch, SPST - $2.99/2 pk (I might have used the mini version)
Small, round adhesive pads (the really thin ones, not the thick rubber)
Single conductor, about 4 ft
2-conductor wire, about 20 ft cut into 5 4-ft segments. These lengths will determine how far your buttons can be placed from the control, so you can adjust the length for your needs.
(Note: I had used wire with many more conductors because I got a good price and I wanted thicker wire so it would be more sturdy)
1-in PVC pipe, about 4 inches
2 x 1-in PVC caps
Momentary switch, SPST, normally open - $3.39/2-pk
Silver spray paint (optional)
Small bits of heat-shrink tubing (optional)
Soldering iron w/solder
Hot glue gun
Dremel (drill will work, Dremel is better)
Helping hand magnifying stand
Step 2: Assemble Circuit Board
The kit is great - it has everything you need with very simple instructions. Solder all kit components except for the 4 buttons, 4 LEDs, and on/off slide switch.
Step 3: Hack the Easy Button
First remove the batteries! Then take off the rubber pads on the bottom (save them) and remove the screws. The button should come apart in 3 pieces (Photos 1 and 2).
Drill a hole in the ring portion an appropriate size for the 2-conductor wire you will be using. Pay attention to the orientation based on the screw holes if you want the wire to come out of a specific side of the button. I drilled mine to come out at 6 o'clock (Photo 3).
Now let's look at the electronics. The wires and pads are labeled in the photo below. From another website (cited below):
" pads A and C. In order to do this we need to remove the resistor and the capacitor. I used the desoldering bulb to remove the excess solder before attaching my wires (Photos 5 and 6).
Finally, run the wire through the "ring" and reassemble the button (Photo 7).
For more details on the Easy Button arrangement (including how to turn it into a garage door opener!), please visit this site:
Step 4: Prepare the Project Box
I didn't like how small the kit LEDs were and I didn't want the circuit board exposed, so I selected a Radio Shack project box to enclose all of the components.
I started by drilling 4 holes in the box top for the LEDs (Photo 1). Push the LED wires through and hot glue them on the underside of the lid. This holds them in place and helps keep the wires separate. You'll notice that LEDs have one flat side. This identifies the negative wire, so try to orient all of your LEDs the same way (Photos 2 and 3).
Next we need to add the switch. This turns the entire unit on and prevents it from being accidentally triggered while in storage. I used my Dremel to carve a hole just big enough for the switch. However, it wasn't very pretty so I added that thin rubber adhesive pad you see in the picture. The switch was hot glued on the inside of the box (Photo 4). Take about three inches of single conductor wire to extend the connector of the slide switch on the inside of the box. This will make it easier to attach to the circuit board later (Photo 5).
Finally, we need to make holes for the Easy Button wires. We need five holes - one for each Easy Button and one for the reset switch. I wanted it to look nice so I used LED holders to plug the holes. My wire was a perfect fit for the metal holders (Photos 6 and 7).
Step 5: Assemble Reset Button
I chose to make the reset button more Jeopardy! style because only one person would be using it, in contrast to the multiple hands that could be slamming the Easy Button at the same time.
Cut a piece of PVC pipe about 4-5 inches, long enough for your hand to comfortably fit. Take one PVC cap (cap "A") and drill a hole in the center, same size as your wire. Take the second PVC cap (cap "B") and drill a hole that is an appropriate size for your momentary switch.
If you'd like, prime and paint the PVC pieces. I chose a metallic silver paint.
Run your wire through cap A, the tube, and cap B, in that order (Photo 1). Now connect your switch (see switch instructions for pos/neg). Push all of the pieces together (Photo 2). Mine was a tight enough fit that I didn't need to glue the PVC pieces to each other, but I did put hot glue inside cap B to keep the switch from moving.
Step 6: Wiring the Unit
First screw in the battery holder and connect the wires to the circuit board (Photo 1).
Next we are going to connect the LEDs to the circuit board. Pay attention to positive/negative (which is why I used two different colors). I added heat-shrink tubing up near the lid to prevent wire contact. I also put a dab of hot glue on the circuit board for the same reason (Photo 2).
Run your easy button wires through the holes in the box and connect them to the board as shown in the picture (Photo 3). This is kind of a pain because of everything being connected.
Finally, attached the slide switch wires to the upper left corner of the board (Photo 4). See the kit instruction for more details on the holes to use. This is done last to make it easier to solder the button wires.
(Note: all wires are soldered on the underside of the board)
Step 7: Enjoy!
Add the 9V battery, screw on the project box lid and you're good to go!
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