Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Halloween Project: "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" aka "Jan in the Pan"

See "Jan In The Pan" in action:

This Halloween project was inspired by the B Horror Movie "The Brain that Wouldn't Die". In the movie, there is a severed head (aka "Jan in the Pan") that talks.

My Project consists of the "Head" apparatus and the "Talking" apparatus.

The "Head" apparatus is made up of a mannequin head wrapped in bandages and placed in a tray of water dyed with red food coloring, a fountain pump, tubing, etc. The "Talking" apparatus consists of a BASIC STAMP2 microcontroller, a PIR sensor (this sensor is compatible with the BASIC STAMP2), Voice recorder kit, an 8 ohm speaker, and a box to house the components. The voice recorder is triggered by the motion sensor to play sound files recorded from the movie. This includes the most famous one from the opening title where the head cries, "Let Me Die".

I. Parts List
The "Head" Apparatus:
-A bandaged Head
-Tray to hold the water
-Red food coloring
-Small fountain pump
-Tubing to carry the water
-Plastic soda bottle and holder
-Silicon sealant
The "Talking" Apparatus:
-BASIC STAMP 2 microcontroller (9 volt battery)
-PIR sensor that is compatible with BASIC STAMP 2
-Voice Recorder circuit (4 AA batteries)
-Mp3 sound sample files recorded from the movie for voice recorder
-Box to house components
-8 ohm Speaker
II. Assembly
The "Head Apparatus":
- Mix Red food coloring with water
-Put the Bandaged head on a stand in the water in the tray
-Attach the plastic hose to pump and to the plastic soda bottle
-Plug the pump in and adjust the flow rate
The "Talking" Apparatus:
-Assemble the voice recorder kit and record the sound samples
-Program the BASIC STAMP 2
-Need a program for the PIR sensor
-Need a program to trigger the Voice recorder
-Need to find the pins for the Voice recorder (solder or clip into pins)
-Need to assign pins for the PIR sensor
-Need to assign pins for the switches and LEDs
-Attach the PIR sensor and Voice Recorder to BASIC STAMP 2
-Attach the 8 ohm speaker to the Voice Recorder
-Put assembly in Box, decorate as desired adding power on/off switches and LEDS

Contact me if you want a copy of the BASIC STAMP code or the sound samples I used.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Mame Arcade Project

Check out the Design and Build on YouTube, here's the link:

Tips to Building a Table Top Arcade

Acquire a Laptop and load Mame and game ROMS on it
Design (or get plans online) and build a cabinet around the laptop
Build the control panel (or buy one), connect it to the Laptop
Design the artwork (side art, marquee, etc)

The book I used as my major reference was "Project Arcade: Build Your Own Arcade Machine" by John St. Clair

Things that may have made it easier:

Step I. – I could have used a newer laptop with Windows XP, but I had a free, older, Gateway laptop given to me with Windows 98. So, I used what I had to save some money.

Step II. – It probably would’ve been easier if I used plans to work from (tons of sources online), but I designed the cabinet as I went along. That worked really well for me because I partially mocked it up in cardboard first. If you don’t feel confident in working this way and have problems with lining things up, I would suggest getting a good set of plans to work from.

Step III. – Buy a control panel (X-Gaming has some great ones, they even have ones with a built in roller ball). I built my own panel with parts purchased from X-Gamming, the Arcade Bundle: 2 joysticks and 20 push buttons:
I used a keyboard hack to connect the joysticks and push buttons to the laptop. Basically, I took an old IBM keyboard circuit board soldered wires to each of its connectors, mapped out its X and Y matrix to see what keyboard keys I needed for a majority of the games. I wired those to the joysticks and push buttons, and plugged in the PS/2 connector from the IBM keyboard circuit board into the PS/2 port of the laptop. There are some drawbacks to this, response time might be a little slower than if you were to use a control panel that was purchased, and I did not use/build a roller ball or a spinner (that limits the number of games you’ll be able to play). On the other hand, the keyboard hack saves some money, so it’s a trade off.

Step IV. – There is really nothing I would do differently for this step except maybe add some side art. I designed the Marquee in Photoshop and took it to a print shop to be printed on back lit material. I used some long tube type LEDs to back light the marquee, and it worked out really well.