Keep Fun in Check With a Parental Count Down Timer

Gaming industry software engineer [Pedantite] writes in to let us know about his latest endeavor, an AVR based parental assistant timer: Good Times.   Looking for a new project that would be both useful and interesting, his wife suggested a “time out/ time’s up timer”. Like most of us [Pedantite]‘s children are well studied in the arts of procrastination and mischief.  In the kids’ case this leads to time outs and break time running amok. The solution, in this case, is pretty much an advanced DIY egg timer with fun sounds.

The timer sports all of your basic countdown-timer functions including a 4 digit 7-segment LED output display, stop light style LED indicators, and controls to start/pause and stop the count down. The count down time can be input via the +5 minute, +1 minute, and +15 second buttons. There is even a happy/sad button to toggle between “time out” and “break time” modes. Two Atmel micros power the device, an AT Tiny 2313V for the capacitive touch keypad and an AT Mega 644P for the display, audio, and time measurement.  There are a lot of excellent techniques used in the build, some which we have covered here:  Four 595 Shift registers for the display; A 4 bit r2r DAC for audio output.

[Pedantite] is still in the process of writing up the project in multiple posts, and would love to know what you all want to hear about. Check out his blog for details and a quick video of the timer in action! Also, if you are interested in capacitive buttons, check out part 2 of the writeup.

Comments

  1. andrew says:

    For whatever it’s worth, stimuli correlated with the removal of a fun activity (the passage of time on the display in this case) tend to become aversive. His kids might appreciate it more if it counted down time left to work. Even then you might see his kids avoid the timer or even him near the beginning of a work period because that’s associated with a long time until break.

  2. jeeger says:

    “Come back now, children! Your 30-second break is over!”

  3. fred says:

    I’m in the process of building a multiple child bed-time reminder, with buttons for Mum to advance the bedtime.

    I’m using an RBBB + 3216 display.

  4. Lars says:

    A countdown clock is actually also very helpful for kids with autism. Especially if it rings when the time is up. It helps them change activities.

  5. Pedantite says:

    We use it primarily as bed time reminder and “time out” timer. My kids do have a love-hate thing with the device. Before I built it, I used my cell phone as a bed time timer. So far, my kids don’t appear to be avoiding me :)

  6. error404 says:

    I really like the capacitance sensing mechanism. So simple and obvious, but…I wouldn’t have thought of it.

    Use the input capture device for timing and I don’t think you need to worry much about timing anymore, so can do it all in the one micro.

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