Introduction: Quiz Show Buzzer System Using Staples Easy Button

Picture of Quiz Show Buzzer System Using Staples Easy Button

**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

Picture of 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
Desoldering bulb

Helpful tools:
Wire stripper
Dremel (drill will work, Dremel is better)
Helping hand magnifying stand
Large workspace

Step 2: Assemble Circuit Board

Picture of 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

Picture of 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 B and C are directly connected to each other. Pressing the switch connects them to Pad A. Despite appearance, Pad D does not seem to be connected to the switch." (Photo 4)

We essentially want to bypass the speaker, so we will solder our wires to
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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of Enjoy!

Add the 9V battery, screw on the project box lid and you're good to go!


bobsacomano made it! (author)2014-10-04

I use mine at work for team building events!

hrttele (author)2014-04-16

Very nice make too bad the easy buttons don't work anymore. I personally don't like how the easy buttons look so I used just regular push buttons. However my game show buzzer system is setup differently. I used construction helements. Check it out

fdaleodim (author)2013-07-01

I am a novice at this, but I am good at following directions, so I believe I can do this. I am building the Quiz Show Buzzer System per the original instructions. I want to use a more than 2-conductor wire as suggested so I can have a sturdier wire. I assume I am still only connecting 2 of the wires (pos and neg). What do I do with the remaining wires?

phillippp (author)fdaleodim2013-10-30

The extra wires do not get used. trim them back out of the way.

fdaleodim (author)phillippp2013-12-03

Thanks Phillip!

so_ham007 (author)fdaleodim2014-02-21

if you have fully buzzer system information then you can send me I need more information abount that..

phillippp made it! (author)2014-02-04

I used an Arduino Uno R3 as the main board. Added RCA jacks to make the buttons removable. This was a very fun project. Thank You for making this instructable. The EZ buttons were possibly the hardest part of this. They have updated the board. Makes it very difficult to solder for beginners. Two of my buttons I successfully soldered to the actual staples button board the other two I modified to use the momentary switch found in the Quiz show board kit. The two using the momentary switch are slightly harder to press but do function very well. I am building several more for the church. Looking at using some momentary buttons I found at or possible making some hand held style trigger. Thanks again for making this it inspired me to get busy.

jongscx (author)2012-06-09

I made a self-contained 8-button version for a quiz/trivia thing for a Filipino Independence day event. This project was harder than I thought.

I'll be making an instructable for mine too, would you mind if I put a link to this one on it?

phillippp (author)jongscx2014-02-03

Where did you get that container?

jongscx (author)phillippp2014-02-03

This Specific one is a harbor-freight hardware case; but they're kinda everywhere.

phillippp (author)jongscx2014-02-04

Thank You. Nice looking buzzer system.

fdaleodim (author)2013-11-27

The first pic is mine and the 2nd pic is the one in this instructable

fdaleodim (author)2013-11-27

Electronics for the Easy buttons I purchased looked different than the one in this instructable. Can anybody help me identify the pertinent components? Specifically, the pads. The one with the black capacitor hanging off it seems obvious. The others, not so.


phillippp (author)2013-10-30

What gauge wire is recommended for this project?

Airness1 (author)2013-08-21

I just connected one led with one trigger button. I wanted to make sure things worked correct before i went ahead and solder the rest of the buttons and the LED's. My first LED lights up but only when i hit the reset button not when i hit the trigger. What would cause that and I would I fix that?

Airness1 (author)2013-08-21

I just connected one led with one trigger button. I wanted to make sure things worked correct before i went ahead and solder the rest of the buttons and the LED's. My first LED lights up but only when i hit the reset button not when i hit the trigger. What would cause that and I would I fix that?

dmcneely2 (author)2013-08-07

Thanks for the awesome Instructable and lots of inspiration! I'm going to make one of these for a monthly Jeopardy-style conference that I run. I've ordered a board, but I have a couple of questions while I wait on it...

1. I'm going to build my own buttons instead of using the Easy Buttons. I assume I need to use a momentary switch, normally open, yes? I'm thinking something like this:
Anyone have any thoughts as to whether the LED would stay lit all the time or only when depressed?

2. Is there anywhere on the board to wire in a buzzer?  I was thinking something like this:
Although 76dB seems loud.  Any thoughts?

Thanks again!

Airness1 (author)2013-07-30

Can someone show me how to make this with the new Easy Button Boards?
I am at a loss at this point because the instructions are for what looks like the old style easy buttons. Sorry but I am at a loss on how to complete the project. Any suggestions are welcomed please be detailed

rwoods8 (author)2013-07-22

Can you tell me how to add sound when the button is pushed? Also, on the left side of the board, there are 3 holes, labeled "1,2,3". What is this used for?

yorkshirespud (author)2013-03-18

Great project! If you want a quick and cheaper alternative however, consider the iPhone/Android phone app 'I Buzzed First!' - it's a smartphone networked gameshow buzzer app - only $1 per contestant.

Rusty101 (author)2013-01-07

This is a great ible My kids are in 4H and do a Quiz bowl every year that uses a system very much like this but there is not enough access to the unit for all the local groups to practice with. Now I will have to get this made so our club will have their own. thank you very much

freeaxes (author)2012-06-07

Those two locations you've connected were in a constantly closed state when I tested them with a multimeter. Don't know why it worked for you. Did you try a new board with no scratching?

rbennett7 (author)freeaxes2012-06-07

You're totally right!

I'm an electronics noob.

They're both closed, but when you hit the button, they open. So it's like a backward circuit. Would probably work for some people (me!) but probably not for quiz shows.

Original post:

I started to follow your directions, and turns out this is wrong.

All I ended up doing was soldiering into two holes.

I can read the orange wire from my arduino (in analog mode), when i put the white wire in ground.

Ignore the scratching. Totally unnecessary. (I think.) Just connect to the holes.

edgannon1979 (author)2011-12-22

Need help with how to wire T11A39 easy button. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank You

freeaxes (author)edgannon19792012-03-04

They're definately using a new board. If you want to make it work with the T11A39 board, it's not hard to do, but it does require a delicate hand.

1. Remove all resistors and capacitors from the board. Why? Because we don't trust them. This isn't the delicate part.

2. Take a dremel tool with a cutting disk, and cut through the top layers of the board just to the right of that drop of black resin hiding the chip that's obviously maintaining a closed circuit between the regions of the board that we'd prefer were left open. This also isn't the delicate part.

3. Scratch the non-conductive top green layer off of a small region of the board so that you expose the metal conductive surface and create a new solder point. The place you want to do this is right on the pathway that was connecting the lower part of the button press area with the hidden chip of evil that you dealt with in step 2.

4. Solder one wire to this new exposed area, and the other to either of the 2 available solder points above the other half of the button press area.

tech-tut (author)freeaxes2012-03-09

That's a cool idea.

I decided to make my own circuit board for this. I used a tact switch in the center of a single sided pcb. (This was easy for me since I have a CNC router, but I think that a band saw and a few drill bits could accomplish the same thing.)

I was afraid that the high resistance of the "button pad" would be a problem. I've also seen that stuff wear out in car remotes, and I didn't want a high usage device to go bad like that since I expect that it will get roughed up in it's lifetime.

I wanted to use the talking circuit somewhere else, too (to be annoying).


phunt46 (author)edgannon19792012-02-28

same here..any luck with that yet?

edgannon1979 (author)phunt462012-03-04

No help yet, but I teach an EMT program at the local High School that has an electronics program I will see if they can help

phunt46 (author)edgannon19792012-02-28

I have that same board that came in the buzzers, T11A39..and the connects don't match up like the other illustration done on board CA68-03C. Did anyone get back to you? Hope i won't need to order different model type buzzer.


KRSmith84 (author)edgannon19792012-01-04

Having same issue. Pic of circuit board in my profile image gallery if anyone cares to have a gander and offer some advice

jiasso (author)2011-10-18

I have two of the older easy buttons and the circuit boards in them are different than the ones pictured. anyone know how to wire these?

bigster (author)jiasso2011-11-21

I have three new easy buttons and I cannot figure out how to wire them. they have T11A39 on the circuit board and the 2011-04-27. Anyone have any idea how to wire these up?

freeaxes (author)bigster2012-03-03

Yea, see my above comment about just severing the circuit and adding your own solder point.

cypher2301 (author)2012-02-29

I have made this.. I did the same thing you did and i put the leds and the Buttons on first to test it... i did burn the board at R1 i cleaned it and kept going. when i finished it didnt work.. so i pulled out my multimeter and the signal dropped at r1... so i scratched of the board a lil and dropped some solder over it and now i have voltages in all the right spots.. but no lights anywhere... no worky... any ideas please email me and comment here.. email is

jfdonohoe (author)2012-02-13

I want to see if I can add a buzzer to this project. There's something about an audible "buzzzzzzz" that improves the experience. I just need to figure out:
- Get a loud enough buzzer
- Additional power supply?
- Where to wire it into the board
- Figure out to make the sound only last for a second or two while keeping the LED light persistently on until reset.

KRSmith84 (author)2012-01-22

So after some more playing around (and getting the system all put together), I have discovered that with the new Easy Buttons, *every* cotact point results in a lit-up light *without* pressing the button. Boo to Staples for changing the Easy button. Might just make hand-held buttons using PVC and momentary contact switches...

jfdonohoe (author)KRSmith842012-02-13

I ran into the same issue. Half my Buttons were the old circuit board and half the new ones. I got it to work by basically cutting the boards to make a visibly understood circuit.

I'll try to take a photo of what I ended up doing and post it.

ladbg (author)2010-02-26

I can't quite tell from the pictures where the slide switch wires attach to the circuit board.  You indicate they go to the upper left hand corner and advise to  refer to the circuit board instructions, but I'm still having trouble.  Do you have another picture or more specific instructions?  Thank you.

rk55 (author)ladbg2011-09-04

In case you haven't figured it out yourself or someone else had answered your question, here is the answer. There are are three holes next to the battery where the tiny slide button supplied withe the kit goes. You need to use the two holes closer to the battery connection to connect your larger push button.

rk55 (author)2011-09-04

I soldered all the components, soldered wires for LEDs and the on/off switch and connected the battery. I also plugged the push buttons that came with the kit to test my connections. I 'turned the system on' buy shorting the wires for the on/off switch. When I press the switch 1, the LED1 wires have a voltage between them as measured by the multimeter. I can reset by pressing the reset push button to reset the voltage to zero. But push button switches SW2 through SW4 have no effect on LED1 through LED5. I checked all the connections and polarities of diodes, they seem to be fine though my soldering is kind of sloppy. Any suggestions on what can be going wrong? I do not want to connect anything till I can make sure the circuit is fine. Thanks

smrflwr (author)2011-08-05

This is awesome. I have a question regarding the Jeopardy template. How do you change the exam title on the slides? I know how to do it on the title page, but on the other slides I am unable to change it. I checked the slide master and I can't do it there. I would appreciate the information.

balloonpilot (author)2011-08-04

Thanks for the great instructable!!
This should save a whole lot of arguments over who rung in first at my youth group.
And at an affordable price too.

johnelle (author)2011-07-11

I built this and it functions but the "super bright" LEDs are not very bright at all. I assume this is because they need more current than the small original LEDs that come in the kit. Has anybody adjusted the resistance so the get more current?

Also the reset button works better with 1/2" PVC rather than 1".

kbedell1 (author)2011-06-25

The website that sells the kit also sells a power adapter that could work for higher voltage requirements.

Phoghat (author)2011-02-03

My GF and watch Jeopardy together. Sometime there's another friend or two.
1. I'm assuming that if less that 4 people are playing it will still work?
2 I don't like the Easy button and will make this with the hand held button in #5?
3. I'll just use some other kind of momentary switch for the reset button.
Can sound be added?

10lombara (author)2010-06-08

i have a question regarding the circuit, i built the circuit exactly as you said but it seems like no electricity is running through the circuit because my LED lights are not going on. What are some of the possible problems that i could have? i was thinking it was my soldering but im not sure.

Madrias357 (author)10lombara2010-11-18

LED's might be backwards, power might be backwards, buttons might not be functioning. Test with a multimeter in DC volts mode.

Phoghat (author)Madrias3572011-02-03

Not to mention a cold joint or two

bartman1966 (author)2011-01-23

An alternative solution could be to use QuizXpress ( This is software for Windows that allows you to design quizzes graphical with all sorts of game formats and works with the commonly available wireless and wired Sony Buzz buzzers.

Xombee (author)2010-12-13

Thanks for the Instructable! The kit has another product number "MK133", that can be found at for under $9.

If you are a soldering newbie, be sure you follow the correct soldering procedures (there's several videos on Youtube), or you'll mess up the board. One thing that happened to me is that I failed to put some hot glue on the wire connecting points to extend the LED reach and a couple of them snapped the solder connecting points.

Also, don't be lazy about tinning and cleaning your soldering iron of excess solder, or you'll have trouble.

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