Introduction: My Simple (taped Up) DDR Pad

This has been a project I always wanted to do, but since my family is not big on crafting/constructing, it has been very difficult for me to gather the right tools/materials for the project to materialize.

I know there are lots of tutorials online on how to make them, and there are quite a number of them here on Instructables.

For me, the challenge was about finding readily available products that can help me create a reliable enough solid looking board without having to do much of the crafting which I totally suck at.

This is an instructables for a clumsy person like me. If you know how to use scissors, tape and glue. You can make this work!

So it's a balance between budget, effort and appearance.

It's not too shabby looking, you still can't a close to arcade feel with an elevated platform. And it doesn't take too much effort. Obviously it drives the cost up a little bit, but hey. The Project Management book I have says if two elements of the resource triangle comes down, the other must go up to counter balance it.

So the final result is nothing fancy with metal, no power tools involved, just a few visits to shops and I get a decent set of DDR pads that my parents have been testing for a few days.

And no problem so far.

Since it's my first Instructables, I feel like I explained a lot, but not quite detailed enough. Please let me know if anything is unclear

Step 1: Material List

The obvious

  1. 4+ 10k resistors
  2. Really long wires, I'd say 3 meters of two different colored wires
  3. Your computer, or someone else's computer :)
  4. I used Arduino Leonardo, purchased from Sparkfun, simply because it can act as a keyboard/mouse out of box. Teensy would have been a better option in terms of size, but I screwed up on the soldering, so...Leonardo it is - 24.95

On top of electronic components, the following are needed

1. Boards to stand on: Here's I think my best moves. After some shopping around, I found the perfect
solution to my lack of power tool/precision with cutting/knowledge of wood.

These boards at Michaels. Now that I look at their website, I'm fairly certain I paid more than what is listed here as I failed to find the pack at the store, and bought my boards individually. At the minimum, get 8 boards. Used for Up down left and right buttons. Get more if you want to create more pads So that should be < 50 dollars For me, the boards were where I spent the most money

2. Aluminum foil/Tin foil. Yes, they sound like terrible ideas, but they haven't failed me yet.

3. Sponges - don't get the flat ones, get something thicker like what I've posted so you can cut it to the size you like.

Optional material

4. Conducting tape, now that I've seen some other instructable. Maybe conductive paint would have been the best option available, although it seems to be a little less environmental friendly.

I got some conducting tape, the original plan was to tape the whole area over with it, but since they come as thin strips, I had to use aluminum foil to connect them, but at least it makes my pads more protected against damage.

If there is a Rona nearby, I think they sell them too.

5. I also got some Popsicle sticks to pop up my contacts. On my first board, I used spared CDs I have from ~10 years ago. So you don't actually have to get them, just anything to pop up the contacts just a little bit, you might not even need to raise it.

Step 2: Build the Circuit With Arduino

This is where we do a little bit of planning

The circuit is as shown, you can simply build it as it is minus the switches

The switches on the top are basically our boards, which we will explain in the next step

Adafruit has a great explanations on how to work buttons with Arduino

The idea is to create the pads separately and have all of them connecting back to the Arduino through an intermediate step. I used a breadboard, but it doesn't have to be on a breadboard, I just used one so I can make all my changes on one board.

The resistor used here are 10k

Step 3: Plan Out the Pads

The picture is just for your reference.

So now, we have to plan out the board

Here are the areas that needs planning

1) Cut sponges to size

Since we are using sponges to create the bouncy feel. We have to determine the dimensions of each piece. I totally eyeballed them just to give you an idea on how rough this could be.

I cut four pieces of sponge for one pad, one at each corner.

This would be a good time to place them in between two artist canvases and get a feel for it

2) Plan out the area where the contact should be.

I used a 6'' x 6'' square in the middle of the canvas to be my areas of contact.

You can lay a single piece of aluminum foil on there, or you can do what I have done: use two pieces of conducting tape to hold foil down, while folding part of the foil on top of the tape to connect the tape.

I would use a pencil to draw out the square at this point

3) Think about how you want to make contacts, I have posted my design as a reference. The idea is to leave enough room to make electrical contacts with.

Wires will unfortunately have to be taped on to the boards since we are using aluminum foil. Plan to tape as little as possible because tape will break off the electrical contact.

Step 4: Put Together the Bottom Board

This is totally by preference, I use a black wire on the bottom as the negative lead.

So, layout your bottom pad. Glue the sponges on

Tape your aluminum foil onto the board,

Hold it down with conductive tape (or if you didn't get conductive tape, simply glue the aluminum foil onto the board)

Fold a piece of the foil over the conductive tape so the two stripes are connected

Make sure the aluminum foil is not tight, make it a little bit loose so they can make contact with the foil on the top board as well

Step 5: Repeat Step 4 for the Top Board

Same steps, but for the top, I would try repositioning the tape to maximize the contact with the bottom board

In fact, I recommend rotating the top board 90 degrees to create a better connection (again, it depends on where you have put the tape)

That is also why I said in the previous step to keep the foil exposed, as a fail safe so even if the tape don't make contacts, as long as the aluminum foil can touch each other, it will still work.

Step 6: Tape Wires to the Boards

Remember, tape as little as possible while maintaining contact

Feel free to tape as much as you want outside of the conducting area (area without foil) to keep it secure.

Step 7: Connect the Wires Back to Arduino

Define a convention: Top boards are all positive, bottom boards are negative

Connect the wires from the top board to the positive side of Arduino

Connect wires from the bottom side to the resistor.

Just make sure they are connected to the correct pin.

In the program I attach in the next step

pin 12 is up

pin 7 is right

pin 8 is down

pin 4 is for left

If you changed the pin arrangements, make sure to change the sketch as well.

Now we have one pad complete, create three more pads!

Step 8: Software

I used Stepmania as the software for the DDR game, you might find something else.

I won't delve too much into Arduino software

I'm assuming most of you here already own an Arduino and simply want to put it to a good use

If not, you need to go to Arduino site and download the IDE with drivers

The code has been attached

Arduino code simply uses the board as your keyboard, so if you wanted to have two players, a new set of keys need to be defined on top of a new set of boards.

It's possible to cram all of them into one board, you will need to create a simple digital to analog converter and use the analog pins to decide which button was pressed.

I will work on that sometime in the future.

So start Stepmania, plug in your Arduino, and have fun.


Step 9: Possible Improvements

For one thing, I realized how much cleaner the board would be if we used conductive fabric and conductive thread, it probably will be a lot more reliable than wires taped on to aluminum foil.

Extra buttons! Those are always fun


One thing I'm trying to do is to offload the processing onto a Raspberry Pi, so I can still use my computer. But Stepmania isn't available for Pi just yet, I guess I'm hoping for somebody to do it.

The nice part about artist board is: YOU CAN ACTUALLY DRAW ON it.

Step 10: Troubleshooting

After each pad is made, I would test them one at a time.

Make sure the connection is reliable enough before moving on to the next step

Use File > Examples > Basics > DigitalSerialRead in the Arduino IDE to test