Introduction: Giant Game of Operation

About: I used to teach middle school science, but now I run my own online educational science website. I spend my days designing new projects for students and Makers to put together.

I was recently asked to be in a dunk tank at my elementary school's end of the year carnival. As much as I love being continuously dropped into a tank of cold water by vindictive elementary students, I instead offered to make a game.

What I came up with is a jumbo sized version of the game Operation. It looks, acts, and works exactly like the fun board game of old. Best of all it wasn't very tough to make and cost under $10. Had I planned this far in advance I could have had some of my students help do the work, since most of it involves painting and cutting.

Time: 3-5 hours
Cost: Under $10
Difficulty: Easy

Step 1: What You Need

Found Supplies:
A Flat Panel TV box. Or any other wide and flat box.

Bought Supplies:
Metal Tongs ($1)
Tin Disposable Oven Trays ($1 for 3)

Electrical Supplies:
Buzzer ($3) - I used two of them because I had two. Or just get one big one.
AA Battery Holder ($1.50)
Red LEDs ($1-5) - Use 10mm Diffused Red LEDs if you can.
Resistors (100 for $1) - Might not be necessary depending on how you do the power.
Wire - You need stranded wire for part of this project, make sure you have some on hand. Solid core will not work (it will eventually break.)

Art Supplies:
Tape (packing, electrical, and mounting tape)
Paint Brushes

Soldering Iron
Box cutter
Wire strippers

To be honest you probably have most of this stuff around your home right now. I only needed to go out and buy the tongs and tin oven trays. My total cost for this project was under $5 and would have been less but I bought extra supplies.

The one thing you have to watch out about is making sure your tongs and tins are conductive. This is why I listed a Multimeter as a tool you should have. If they're not conductive then your game isn't going to work.

Now you could always make this solar powered... which would be fun filled and completely pointless. If so you can always get supplies from my website, Brown Dog Gadgets. I also have battery holders and LEDs if you're in need.

Step 2: The Game Design

If you're unfamiliar with Operation then you're in for a treat. Operation is a board game where you must use steady hands to remove items from a body. If you touch the sides a buzzer and lights go off. Some things are easy to take out, others are difficult. I picked up an older copy of the game from Good Will for $1 the other week.

The design of the game is simple. The board game uses a single metal plate hidden under the cardboard as part of the circuit. Power is run through the tweezers and if the tweezers come in contact with the metal plate the circuit is completed and the buzzer goes off. Very simple electrical design.

I followed a very similar approach in my design. Everything is wired in parallel with positive power flowing to the tongs. Instead of a single metal plate I use several tin oven trays which are all wired to the negative end of our batteries. I have a poorly drawn circuit later on to help you out..

Step 3: The Box

The only part of this project I worried about finding was the box. I needed something wide and tall, but also flat.

I ended up using a box from a 46inch flat screen TV. Now I don't own a flat screen TV (sadness) but I do own a phone. I called up my local Best Buy and asked if they had a box. They in fact did and were more than happy to give it to me.

A box from a 46 inch TV was a perfect size for what I'm doing. If you're hosting a smaller event or something for your kids, a 32 inch tc box would be fine. Now a bigger box... that would be.... awesome...

So if you don't have a big flat screen TV box then just call around. Someone will have one.

If you were really super awesome you could always make this out of wood. I'm not super awesome which is why I so often choose cardboard as my medium of choice.

Step 4: Paint Your Box

While the box I got turned out to be perfect in size it had a whole lot of writing and pictures on it. We don't want that.

I choose to put on a layer of white latex paint on one side. This was paint I had at home from a few years ago when I painted a couple of rooms. There is no reason you should go out and buy paint. Ask around and see if someone has leftovers.

In a pinch you could also just cover it in brown or white paper. You also don't have to paint it white. I'm partial to blue.

Step 5: Cut Your Holes

Before you start cutting holes in your nicely painted box you should think about a couple of things.

1) What will your body look like?

Make a simple outline of your game body to help place the holes.

2) How big are my objects?

Bigger objects need bigger holes to go in.

3) How difficult do you want to make this?

The bigger the holes the easier it will be to get things out of the holes. If you're designing this for kids be sure you're keeping the difficulty level in mind when designing this part. You want to make it challenging, not impossible. When I made mine I did a variety of sizes for different objects. Some are easy, some are difficult.

I also cut a "door" in the back of the box so I could access the inside.

Step 6: Place Your Tins

Originally I was going to line the inside lip of each hole with copper wire. Expensive and a lot of work. I ended up using these tin oven trays I got from the $1 Store. In fact they came in a 3 pack for $1.

I first cut the tins down the middle and then resized them fit the holes. Some required more work than others.

To keep them in place I just used packing tape.

Now something to keep in mind is that not only are the side conductive, but also the bottom. We don't want the buzzer to go off if the kids touch the bottom, that would make the game impossible. A quick and easy fix is to line the bottom of the tray with some paper. I had silvery cardboard that came with my trays, so once the trays were in place I cut up the cardboard and taped it to the bottom of the trays. You'd never know there were there.

Easy, no?

Step 7: Wire the Electronics

(If you don't have a soldering iron you can just twist all the wires together tightly and then wrap them in electrical tap. Soldering just holds them together better.)

I'm assuming that this will be the most difficult part for most people. Luckily it's a very very easy electrical job.

First, test out your equipment. Make sure your buzzer works properly with the power source you have. I went with a 3x AA battery holder which provides 4.5Vs. This is more than I needed for my buzzers but I wanted to be on the safe side.

To wire things up I put all the components in Parallel. This means that every buzzer and LED is directly connected to the battery pack.

First, strip a good amount of plastic off each wire of your buzzer and battery holder.

Wrap the positive end of your buzzers to the positive end of your battery pack. (Or wait until you have your LEDs.)

Now the LEDs need resistors attached. As I was using 4.5Vs I put some 100 ohm resistors on the positive (long) leg of each LED. I then have the other ends of the resistors come together. Twisting is your friend. I also attached a length of wire to the resistors so they could reach the positive wire of the battery holder.

Battery Positive Wire -> Long Connecting Wire -> All Resistors -> One Resistor Per LED Positive (Long) Leg

Battery Positive Wire -> Positive Buzzer Wire

Positive Buzzer Wire + Negative (short) LED legs -> Super Long Wire to the Tongs.

So to recap, we now have the positive wire from the AA holder connected to the positive wire from the buzz AND the wire connecting all the positive legs of the LEDs. You can solder that together now.

The last thing we need to do is connect the negative wire from the buzzer with the negative legs of the LEDs, and then hook that up to our tongs.

To do this I stripped a good amount of protective coating off the "tongs" wire. I then used that to wrap up the LED legs, and then wrapped the buzzer negative wire to that bundle. Then solder.

***Use threaded wire to hook up the electrical stuff to the tongs. DO NOT USE solid core wire. Solid core will break from all the twisting and moving involved in playing the game.***

From here on out I used tape and twisting to keep the wires together. So put the soldering iron away.

Step 8: Tong Ta Tong Tong Tong

I used some generic metal meat tongs. Only $1. They work perfectly for this.

To hook up the wire from the electronics to the tongs I first cut a really long length of wire. (Which you probably did in the last step.)

On the Tong end of the wire I stripped a good amount of the protective coating off. I then wrapped that around part of the tongs and then used electrical tape to keep it down.


You can test if everything is working by touching the tongs to the negative wire of the battery pack. Things should buzz and light up.

***It's important that you use threaded wire to hook up the tongs to the electrical stuff. DO NOT use solid core wire. Sold core will eventually break from the moving and twisting involved from playing the game. Threaded will not.***

You also probably want to tape down the tong wire. I tapped the wire to the inside of the box. This way if a student pulls the tongs they won't rip the electronics out.

Step 9: Wire Up Your Tins

I guess you could try soldering wires onto the under sides of your tin oven trays, but I just choose to tape them on.

Oh yes, tape.

I cut lengths of wires and then generously stripped the protective coatings off each end.

One end I taped to a tin oven tray, the other end I connected to the negative wire of the battery pack.

As I have 6 trays that I used, I needed six wires.

Once you have them all hooked up you can give your circuit a test. Just touch the tongs to the tins and things should happen. If nothing happens with a tin just readjust the tape and make sure the other end is twisted tight.

I secured the battery pack inside using mounting tape. I also cut a hole for the LEDs in the nose, and a small hole for the buzzer to poke through.

Easy breezey Japanesey.

Step 10: Make It Pretty

If everything is lighting and buzzing properly the only thing you have left to do is pretty it up.

I just used some craft paint to color the body pinkish, some brown paint for the hair, and then went along the outside of the body with a black marker. I had all this paint around from years of projects, if you have kids I'm sure you have some as well. Otherwise buy some cheap paint.

I also used some craft foam to make the eyes and mouth stand out a bit more.

Really at this point you can do whatever you want because it's just decorations at this point. You could even give your person a theme...

Step 11: Enjoy

So that about wraps it up. You now have a cheap and fun filled giant version of Operation. Plus if you do a nice job it'll last for years.

One thing that really adds to the fun is if you buy a cheap lab coat. The kids really enjoyed that.

Several people have done wonderful Operation Game costumes here on instructables. I got a lot of my ideas from them.

If you enjoyed this instructable why not go visit my website, It's got lots of fun filled solar things for you to buy and fiddle around with.