Hacking The Elefun

In a move reminiscent of many episodes of Home Improvement, [Xenon] decided to soup up one of his children’s toys. The Elefun is a toy the shape of an elephant that uses a built in fan to blow little butterflies into the air. They are notoriously weak and eat batteries like crazy. They don’t even have a plug for a wall adapter for power.

[Xenon] dug out a 7.5 V wall adapter from an old DSL modem. Since the Elefun normally ran on 6V, he figured this would give the toy a much needed boost. He began to open things up and prepare the soldering iron when he realized that he could just jam the wires into the terminals. The battery compartment screws shut, providing nice safety against electric shock.

He ended up with a much more pleasant experience for his little boy. The Elefun now jumps to life, spewing the butterflies out with ease. It actually shoots them out so quickly, he had to make some more just so the game would last longer.

This may not be the most complex hack or the most impressive execution. [Xenon] deserves some credit though, He recognized the design problems and made his own fixes for them. There’s at least one Elefun in the households of the Hack A Day staff that will be getting this treatment.
[thanks Chris]

21 thoughts on “Hacking The Elefun

  1. This is one thing I’ll have to (tell my wife to) find at a garage sale.
    There was one thing that the project pages are missing. There’s no strain relief shown where the power wires go into the battery compartment. If you have normal kids, they’re going to jump around and will, eventually, trip over the cord. Even a simple knot in the cord should be enough.

  2. Agreed.
    Notch the battery cover and knot the cable with some slack inside the battery compartment.
    Worst case it pops the battery cover off when stressed.

    Basic power hacks are often overlooked because of apparent easiness, but are legit nonetheless.

    Well done!

  3. I’m going to have to dig around in the loft and find my old Elefun. You’re NEVER too old to leap around like a maniac attempting to catch high-velocity paper butterflies in an ineffectually small platic net.

  4. There is a hack almost identical to this with those radio shack xmods r/c cars. I did that and holy crap does it ever make a difference. Just solder in a battery clip for an extra one or two AA or AAA batteries in series with the ones on the car, then use velcro to hold it there. The bod didn’t fit the car any more when I did this, but who cares? My car consistently beat the one belonging to the “hot-stuff” manager at the radio shack store who had the fancy gears and the supposedly high performance motor and stuff. He is electronics illiterate so he never could figure out how to do the mod that I did ;)

  5. When I was a kid my dad did this with a shadow projector (uses transparencies to project holiday-themed shadows) and an electric jack-o-lantern. Great, simple idea that can be applied to a lot of things.

  6. Did a similar hack to my infant daughter’s baby swing. That thing churns through 4 D cell batteries like it’s nobody’s business. Hacking it to be a plu-in was an absolute necessity.

  7. bobbob, it may be cheap and easy, but its a good reminder that it can be done. I remember my dad adding a DC jack and a transformer to plug in my old battery-powered toy karaoke mic. That helped the toy last for a couple more weeks before I got tired of it. :p

    I’ll have to give the idea a try with my son’s ‘TV computer game’ thing that plugs in with RCA cables. Both the main ‘console’ and the wireless keyboard are battery powered and have pathetic battery life, pulling this trick would allow me to avoid at least one set of battery replacements.

  8. I thought this was hack a day not “Obvious Central”. This is base knowledge for just about anybody over the age of 10.

    Great, now you’ve adding a tripping hazard to make the game a bit more interesting. Now I know why they have that picture on the sides of 5 gallon paint buckets. It’s not for the kids….

  9. …To provide protection against the horrifying electric shock of 7.5V? Seriously, guys, ever touch a 9V battery to your tongue to see if it still holds a charge? Far worse than prying fingers on 7.5V. How about “The battery compartment screws shut, to keep the wires in place” or “to prevent shorting”?
    Although, I do confess, the game Operation would be much more fun with 115VAC as a deterrent to slipping up.

  10. @pocketbrain: Mm, a 9v battery is pretty tingly on the ol’ tongue. Of course, a 9v battery is going to be going some if it’s supplying your tongue with even as much as 100mA. Let’s swap that 9v battery for a 7.5v mains adaptor – not even one of those puny 300mA “battery eliminator” PSUs, but a full-on ONE AMP of mains-backed power supply goodness designed for super-high-drain devices like.. oh, I don’t know, the ROUTER it was supplied with! Bearing in mind that it’s not the volts that make the difference, it’s the amps that get your attention, you want to see if this beats a 9v battery in the taste test?

    (For the avoidance of doubt: DON’T DO THIS, ‘kay?)

    I’m not too comfy thinking about how the internal wiring and motors for something designed for 6v of puny battery power is going to cope with sustained periods of 7.5v at one amp, either.

  11. I finally got around to doing this to our Elefun, but the AC adapter I found was 7.5V and only 600mA. It is still more powerful than the batteries, but not as powerful as the guy describes in the article. Oh, and I drilled into the battery compartment from one of the intake holes in the back rather than have the Elefun sitting on the power cord on the bottom (and I knotted the cable inside as suggested above).

  12. We used a 9v cord as that’s all we could find. I did make quite a few more butterflies (out of tissue paper) and it’s a much more enjoyable game now. Actually, with all the power it has now, I may be off to make even more butterflies.

  13. Got into trouble of finding batteries to feed the elephant. Almost things were out of hands, and saw the above suggestions.

    Before buying a new adapter, curiously checked my NOKIA MOBILE CHARGER, which was giving an output of 5.8V/0.8Amp. Hooked it up to the toy and it started working pretty well.

    Just some tips:

    1. Secure the wires inside the battery compartment with knots and tapes. Two holes provided very next to the +/- points helps to do this.

    2. Have atleast 2-3 m of wiring, so that the charger doesn’t get pulled out from mains, even if someone steps on wire by chance.

    3. This also ensures that when the kid handles the toy (to fill in butterflies), the wire nearby would be at low voltage only.

    But All-In-All, though it started giving fun…
    the lack of adapter by design actually disappointed us, and this fact makes the toy ‘non- suggestible to friends’ or ‘non-giftable’.

  14. I hacked at 5.2V 750MA cell phone adapter to my daughters Elefun. It works perfectly!! It doesn’t blow the butterflies out in one woosh.. it slowly sends them out, but it sends ALL of them out. This normally takes about 1-2 minutes. Before we would give up around the 3 minute mark with my daughter droning on and on about “Where are they!?”..

    We turn off the unit, we refill it and get everyone ready again… so it’s not a constant power on. I think it should work smashingly now with out having to replace batteries so much.


  15. Nice one mate !
    I drilled an access hole (for the DC wire)into the battery compartment via the last basal vent hole at the back of the elephant. Mocked up a couple of C-type batteries with some wooden dowel and nails to hold the wires in place against the terminals.
    Notched the inter-cell walls for the negative wire and bob’s your uncle
    Got a flat rubber cable-guide strip out of a skip at the Science Park too ;-)
    Continuous Christmas giggles for the 5 year-old and her mates. Replacement batteries stay in the shops & out of the landfill and my money stays in my wallet.

  16. I am a mom with zero electrical knowledge and this hack is AWESOME. I just attached a 9V 500mA after having tried a 5.6V .4A with no luck. Thank you for sharing–my kids are now excited about this toy instead of frustrated….yes, I’ll be making some tissue paper butterflies to supplement.

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