Matchbox launcher reacts to emergency band radio dispatcher

[Jeff] and his wife put together a firefighter themed birthday celebration for their son. As he’s not entirely handy in the kitchen, [Jeff] decided not to lend a hand with the baking or cake decorating. But he didn’t forego the opportunity to combine a couple of different projects to make a Matchbox car launcher that responds to emergency band radio.

Since he’s an amateur radio enthusiast he already had a scanner to monitor the air waves. Apparently there’s a band just for relaying dispatch messages to emergency vehicles. He set the radio equipment to only monitor that channel. An Arduino was added to the mix, taking measurements of the voltage level on the scanner’s audio output. When it’s driven high enough the Arduino trips the toy car launcher.

The car launcher itself is a pretty nifty setup. There are five chutes at the top of a ramp that each fit a car. A sliding gate holds them in place, but can be removed one slot at a time by a geared motor. The addition of a poster board facade and two flashing red LEDs makes the setup look right at home with the other party decorations.

See a call come into the station in the clip after the break. We don’t have a category called “fun parenting” so “toy hacks” will have to do.

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