Motor Skills Learning Music Box

Introduction: Motor Skills Learning Music Box

The Project:

Beyonce in a box is a cause and effect toy project that we embarked on during our Assistive Technology (AT) class at NYU. It was initiated by Alex Truesdell, an Occupational Therapist, who is also the founding director of Adaptive Design Association (ADA). Alex was keen to develop a cause and effect musical toy for children so that they can learn functional hand skills through manipulating the toy. By exploring and activating the attached switches, the children will receive motivating feedback in the form of their favorite music that can be added into the toy.

Through the development of Beyonce in a box, we hope to present functional hand skills activities in a fun manner and engage the children in their learning of necessary hand skills. With the modular nature of the box, it can be used to encourage different functional hand skills to be learnt. In addition, with the use of low budget materials and easy fabrication steps, we hope that everyone will be able to build their own Beyonce in a box and enjoy it with their children at home!

The Construction Materials:
-Hot glue and glue gun
-Box cutter
-Metal ruler or T-square
-Soldering kit

Click here to view a document with material costs and place to purchase them.

The Switch Materials:

-Door knob (twist)
-Clothes pin (turn)
-Normally open push buttons (point and push)
-Empty bottle or some kind of malleable plastic tube (squeeze)
-Spool of thread or other circular device (tripod pinch)
-Door handle with latch (grab and thumb push)

Click here to view a document with material costs and a place to purchase them.

The Circuitry Materials:
-Bluefruit EZ-Key Bluetooth Keyboard Controller
-9volt DC power supply
-6 make and female audio jacks
-always open or always closed switches to augment different motor skill switches

Click here to view a document with material costs and a place to purchase them.

The Steps for Building:

Step 1:

The first step to building the MSMB is to decide on the shape you want it to take on. For our first prototype, the group decided on making a triangular wedge shape. Before our group worked on this project however, it took many different shapes, including an actual cube shape and something more akin to a pedestal.

We have uploaded a video of the wedge shape that we created which includes the basic dimensions of the shape (the holes for the modular switches are not yet included in this part of the design).

If you would like to try a different shape but are new to 3D modeling and construction we recommend using Google SketchUp. It is a free software with a low barrier to entry and it also automatically does the calculations for length of each side for you. Pretty handy!

Step 2:
Building the box

As we want this project to be cheap to make and easy to recreate we decided to build the housing out of cardboard. Once you have made your model with measurements it is easy enough to follow those guides and cut out each piece. We suggest starting with the bottom and pack piece first.

Once you have cut these pieces out, affix them together with hot glue. If you are using fairly thin cardboard, we recommend creating a larger surface to glue onto by creating an approximately 1 inch wide strip of cardboard to run the length of this joint. You can layer up pieces of cardboard to make it as thick as you want; doing this will also add stability to the 90 degree angle that you are creating and help support the structure. 

Once the back and the bottom are glued together you can either take the time to measure out the triangles for the sides, or use this angle to quickly trace the side pieces. Cut out two triangular side pieces, cut hand holds into these pieces and then affix them using the same sandwich cardboard method used for the bottom and the back pieces. 

Now we recommend cutting out the top pieces. ***Remember*** adjust the length of your top pieces to account for the depth of the cardboard you are using so your top can sit flush as well as have more support from the sides of the box. Once you have cut out both the top pieces you can glue them together and attach them with cardboard hinges to the the rest of your box (so you can open it and place circuitry inside).

Step 3:
Building the switches

For the scope of this project we have chose to include 6 switches that address 6 different motor skills- pinch, squeeze, twist, grasp and thumb push, single finger point and push,  and tripod pinch and place. It is our hope that anyone looking to build this project will also come up with ideas for their own switches and add the information regarding how to build that switch to our switch repository. 

As this is our first build, we still have a lot of questions regarding the best way to mount switches and have them activate the bluetooth device. We have posted pictures of the front and backs of each switches so you can get an idea of how we tackled each switch. Feedback to how we could better any of these switching mechanisms would be greatly appreciated!

The last part is soldering together the EZ-Key Bluetooth keyboard emulator. For a really comprehensive guide on how to put this component together, please view the tutorial available on the adafruit website. This device allows for the creation of up to 12 different switches. For this project, in terms of the circuit and the programming for DAT APP we have only utilized pins 6- 11 (mapped the 1, 2, W, A, S, and D keys).

Step 4:
How to play music

-Download DAT APP from the app store.
-Once you have the app installed, make sure you have bluetooth turned on on your smartphone, then plug in your MSMB.
-This will power up the EZ-Key at which time it will be in paring mode. Go into your Smartphone settings, then go to the bluetooth menu. You should see a device called Adafruit EZ-Key, pair with this device. Once you are properly paired your phone will say connected and the red light on the EZ- Key will have stopped blinking indicating that it is ready for your input. You can push a button to test. If you are paired properly you should see a green surface mounted LED light up on the EZ Key every time you push a button.
-Once you are paired, open up DAT APP and select songs. **NOTE- only songs stored on your device will be able to be played. If you try to sync songs stored on the cloud it will make the app freeze and you will have to restart your phone.**
-Once you have selected songs, push buttons, listen to music, learn, laugh, play!

Repository for adding switches and construction feedback:

Repository for DAT App code:

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    4 Discussions


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi there! Thank you for the interest in our project! Right now unfortunately the app is still under review by the app store so it can't be downloaded... YET. As soon as it is available a link for that will be posted to our page. In the meantime, if you would like to use the app we can make you a beta tester. If you are interested in this please private message me.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome! This is the first instructable I have ever created so I was a little confused by the format. Thanks so much for the link!