Physical Tech | 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.

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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.

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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…

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Houston, we have power!

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

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Wire cutting, wire stripping, wire soldering, heat sinking…
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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!

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The timer works!
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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.

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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.

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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.