10 March 2006

Long Hours

by Anton Piatek

It is 9:30pm, and I have just left work… I hope I don’t have to do this too often, but at least it was not actually work that kept me in the office.

Blue Fusion starts tomorrow, with Bright Sparks being the first day (which is for the 12-13 age group). My main activity involving lego robots looks sorted, which is a nice relief – the truth will come out tomorrow as the children start playing it but hopefully not breaking it.

There is an interactive area for the kids, which has all sorts of activties. One I hoped to to is a version of Lights Out. Lights out is an old computer game where you are given an n x n grid of squares randomly coloured either black or white. When you click on a square, it and all its neighbours invert colour. The idea is to get all the squares to be the same colour.
I have spent a long time inventing a “dance mat” type controller – 25 foot pad buttons. I took apart a keyboard to use its controller and built the pads with overhead transparencies to make a membrane style switch. With foil lined contacts and a sheet of plastic with holes in between as a spacer.
The idea was that you step on it and the keyboard control circuit sends a keystroke to the computer, making it fairly easy to use in a program.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work. Most of the keys work fine, giving a nice keypress (though it does repeat easily) but a few keys seem to generate one keypress when the pad is stepped on, and then repeat a different key until the pad is released. I cannot understand why.

The idea has now been shelved, as trying to code the software to work will take a long time. I hope to try another computer at some point and see if it is a problem that the floor mat was not plugged in from computer startup, but am not hopeful.

I feel like I have wasted a lot of time trying to get it working, and now have to drop the idea… Maybe I will find the time to get it working for next year, though it won’t be an easy problem to solve.

Tomorrow will be an early start. I have to catch a train at 6.30 so that I can get in early enough to be in before the schools start arriving, and have to make sure everything is ready (in particular my robot activity).