Interactive Prop | Wise Guys Events

Escape Room Contractor (January 2019—April 2019)

Wise Guys Events is a company that produces and hosts team-building events for a wide variety of audiences. I was hired to build a prop for a new portable escape room activity they’re designing using my bread and butter–physical technology!

Read more about the product and development process below.

I was tasked with recreating a sort of “countdown bomb” that the Wise Guys had found on Adafruit’s site, albeit with a few changes. It would feature a timer counting down, illuminated toggle switches, voice clips, and–my own addition–a rechargeable battery! For my first project I had just used a rechargeable USB battery pack, so this was a bit step up as well as a new challenge.

Because the circuit was so simple and my abilities had improved drastically, I decided to brazenly just jump into assembly. This was partly because most of the circuit was straightfoward and partly because some elements were hard to breadboard. I tested out basic connections on a breadboard, but didn’t bother assembling the whole circuit.

Ohhh, so THAT’S how I hook it up!

An example of one of these tests can be found below–I wanted to add an on/off switch to the circuit and wasn’t sure how it had to be wired, so I breadboarded it. And look, it works! Good old-fashioned circuitry at work here.

This little doodad makes it possible to run a Teensy off of a lithium battery.

For the lithium battery, I had to cut a few traces on the Teensy microcontroller I was using (a nice upgrade from the plain Arduino Uno I used before), solder it together, and if I did it right…

Houston, we have power!

Then I moved on to adding wires to all the parts not directly connected to the circuitboard.

Wire cutting, wire stripping, wire soldering, heat sinking…
At least the wires are shorter this time.

Once that was done (the easiest but most tedious part!), I had to get the audio working. For my last job I used a separate audio player controller, but for this one I used the Teensy Audio add-on for the Teensy itself. I also needed an amplifier for this one since it didn’t have one built in. It took a bit of time to figure out the coding, but once I did it worked like a charm.

Next was the timer and last remaining parts, which connected splendidly. The circuit was now complete!

The timer works!
The complete circuit in all its glory.

I repeated the soldering for the second copy (yes, this job also required two!), something tragic happened–when I yanked the microUSB cord out of the Teensy, the USB connector snapped off.

Even with better handiwork, you still have to be gentle.

I talked to my boss at Beaudry Interactive (who is also my mentor at this point) and he said I was out of luck.

So I had to order new parts, reassemble the Teensy, pry the broken one off, and solder the non-broken one on. It was a pain, but hey, things break, and I made sure it wouldn’t be a situation that would happen in the final product.

Prying the broken Teensy off was a struggle.

There were a few bugs I had to fix–mainly, I forgot a pull-up resistor on one switch so it was triggering sporadically–but ultimately this project went a lot smoother than the last one by a longshot! It’s all thanks to my job and my own experimentation on the side. (And my fabricator and I are more on the same wavelength, too!)

Below is a video of the final product in action.