Introduction: My E Mac Button

I have a disabled child that needed what are called Big Mac Buttons.  They are a record and play back button.  Usually therapist use them to teach people with speech and cognitive disorders how to communicate with out saying anything. The individual just simply pushes a button with a pre-recorded saying.  For example; "Help Me" or "More Please".

These buttons are very expensive.  I have seen them go for more than $100 each.  In order to expand my childs button vocabulary I would need several buttons with common sayings for simple tasks that most people don't even think about.  How frustrating it would be not to tell someone you need a drink or would like to take a break.

So I found using inexpensive items I could make my own.

This is My E Mac Button.  I picked that name in honor of my son Ethan.

My Instructions should be detailed enough for someone who has the tools and skill using them to make one for less than $8 each.

Step 1: Parts

One package of small tap lights from the Dollar Store for $1 each.  I think if you get them from Walmart you get 2 for $5.  Next you will need to find on ebay or your favorite online store that you can order anything from.  Look for "10 Sec Sound Voice Recordable Module for Greeting Card" and or the seller "vitaric".  I found them for $3 each with free shipping from China.  They look like this picture. two buttons, a LED light, microphone, speaker and the electronic board that connects it all together.  You should test it before starting to make sure it works.  Out of 10 I had 1 that didn't work and 1 other that just quit working for no reason.  They are cheep but thats the whole idea make several for less than one real Big Mac.  

Step 2: Tools

Electric Drill and 3/8 inch bore
Dremel or some kind of rotary tool and drill bits, sanding drum, cutting disc
small driver set with flat head and Philips bits
sharp hobby knife or utility knife
1/4 inch drill bit to pilot holes
dikes or wire cutter
hot glue gun and two sticks should be more than enough
Acetone to help remove the sticky foam from the bottom.  Lighter fluid works good too.
3 small screws (for feet)

Lots of patients and some ingenuity helps.

Step 3: Open Tap Light

Take the bottom off of the tap light. This will expose the battery compartment.  Using a thin knife or one of those fake credit cards you get in the mail.  Finally I found a use for those things.  Slide the knife or Credit card between the edge of the outer shell and the battery compartment.  Slide it all the way around this should loosen / break the glue that hold them together.   Pull them apart and set the outer shell, clear button dome and shinny silver thing that sits on top of the LED Lights to the side.  Take the flat head screw driver and pry off the circuit board with the LED lights.  If your careful you can save that for a different project.  I used mine to light up a pumpkin for Halloween.

Step 4: Time for the Fun Part

Use the cutting disc and your rotory tool aka Dremel to cut out the battery compartments.  By taking the cutting disc and cutting about a 1/8 of an inch from each end of the battery compartments.  Then cut along the long sides of the battery compartments.  Switch to the the sanding drum to clean up the edges.  It doesn't show it here but I ended up cutting that triangular peace out all together.  It got in the way of the button, mic and LED light.  So you may want to cut it out now and save yourself the trouble of taking it all apart again.

Step 5: Fitting the Circuit Board

Test fit the circuit board in the new space you cut out off the battery compartments.  The corners of the board should rest on a flat spots which should give plenty of area to hot glue it in place.  But you will want to make any sanding or cutting now to make it fit flat.  Now route the wires with the record switch, mike and LED though one of the holes you made when cutting out the battery compartments.  The playback switch shown here with the yellow wires and speaker should remain out on top for later.  Try not to move the wires as much as possible.  I have had them break off at the solder joints.  Then you may need additional tools and "Instructables" on soldering to fix it.

Once you have the circuit board and all the wires going where you want them take the hot glue gun and glue each corner of the circuit board to the top side of the battery compartment.  

Remember I went back and cut out the midle part where you see a glob of glue in picture 4.

Step 6: Name Your Button

Trace the clear button dome you set aside earlier.  I used some left over photo paper because it's a little stiffer than paper.  Cut out the circle.     You may want to cut inside the the line a little bit.  You want it to lay flat inside the clear dome.   Take a marker or pen write or draw the "action", "saying" or "instruction"  you want it to be.  Leave it blank or don't put the paper in at all if you plan on changing what it says often.

Step 7: Speaker Placement

The speaker just happens to fit nicely inside the button dome.  Make sure the face of the speaker in inside the dome.  Put a couple of dabs if hot glue along the seam where the dome and the speaker meet.  This will help keep it in place inside the button dome.  Some were somewhat tighter than this one.  But if you gently force it in you won't need much hot glue.  But I mention gently because the button dome can crack and then it's super glue time and it doesn't look as nice with a crack.

Step 8: Modify Button Spring

It doesn't look like a spring but that is what it does.  Take the shinny thing and cut off the cone shape with the hole where the LEDs fit through.  Make it as flush as possible.  You may use the sanding drum to take off the rough edges.

I ended up sanding this down pretty thin to make it all fit.  but wait until you dry fit every thing together.

Step 9: Base Plate

Most of the time the base plate comes with that sticky foam tape.  It is in the way so peal off the paper then scratch up the foam tape with a flat head screw driver.  I used Acetone which helps loosen and take off that sticky tape.  It will take a couple of tries but eventually it will rub off with a cloth soaked with the acetone.

Once you've got it clean make two holes with the drill using the 3/8 bore (The picture below only shows one 3/8 hole. I drill that medium sized hole out to the 3/8 after I started to fit the button and mic.)  You will want them on opposite sides.  Try to place them inside but close to that line and the teeth that lock the base plate to the battery compartment.

Make another hole using the small dremel drill bit.  Approximately 1/8 or smaller.  You may have to start small and work you way up to the size of the LED light.  They seem to vary in size.   try to place it near one of the 3/8 inch holes like shown in the picture.

You can do it now or later, pre-drill the holes for the feet.  I tried to make them as triangular as possible but just like the rest of the holes in the base plate keep them in side the line.

Step 10:

Insert the mic in the 3/8 hole that is near the hole for the LED light.  Hot glue the mic on the back side (or inside) of base plate.  Do the same for the switch and LED light.  Let cool then try dry fitting the base cover. you may have to make some cuts / sand to make it fit and lock.

Step 11: Putting It All Together

take the main core of the button with the circuit board, speaker, buttons, etc and glue the remaining button (Play back button) to the center of the circuit board.  Wait until it cools.

Place the shinny silver thing over where the Play back button was glued.  Try to line up the corners with those little tabs to hold it in place.

Set the speaker / button dome over the shinny silver thing.  While holding it all together put the outer shell over the entire assembly.  It should come to gether and still allow the push button to operate.  If it doesn't trim off those tabs then dry fit it again.

If you haven't pulled the tab from the battery to activate the record / playback please do so before you hot glue it together.

This would be a good time to test again the unit for correct operation.

Hold down the Record button on the bottom plate while speaking into the mic.  The LED light should stay on while recording but flash once when playing it back.  Release the Record button when done recording.

To play back the recording press the dome button.   It should playback.

If you didn't get a light when recording or playback and you don't hear anything make sure the plastic tab sticking out from one of the batteries on the circuit board isn't still preventing contact to the battery.  Sometimes I had to press hard on the battery contact to bend it back so that it would make a good connection.

Everything is working properly then put it all back together.  Make sure the speaker wires don't get in the way of the outer shell and the base.

Put just a dab of hot glue in 3 or 4 spots around the outside seam where the outer shell and the main base meet.  No need to glue the base plate to the unit because it should still slip in to the slots and a slight turn clock wise will lock it in place.

Now you have a E Mac button,  Enjoy and I hope it will help your special person in your life.