A Hacker’s Epic Quest to Keep His Son Entertained

Little humans have a knack for throwing a wrench in the priorities of their parents. As anyone who’s ever had children will tell you, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them. If you ever needed evidence to this effect, just take a gander at the nearly year-long saga that chronicles the construction of an activity board [Michael Teeuw] built for his son, Enzo.

Whether you start at the beginning or skip to the end to see the final product, the documentation [Michael] has done for this project is really something to behold. From the early days of the project where he was still deciding on the overall look and feel, to the final programming of the Raspberry Pi powered user interface, every step of the process has been meticulously detailed and photographed.

The construction methods utilized in this project run the gamut from basic woodworking tools for the outside wooden frame, to a laser cutter to create the graphical overlay on the device’s clear acrylic face. [Michael] even went as far as having a custom PCB made to connect up all the LEDs, switches, and buttons to the Arduino Nano by way of an MCP23017 I2C I/O expander.

Even if you aren’t looking to build an elaborate child’s toy that would make some adults jealous, there’s a wealth of first-hand information about turning an idea into a final physical device. It isn’t always easy, and things don’t necessarily go as planned, but as [Michael] clearly demonstrates: the final product is absolutely worth putting the effort in.

Seeing how many hackers are building mock spacecraft control panels for their children, we can’t help but wonder if any of them will adopt us.

22 thoughts on “A Hacker’s Epic Quest to Keep His Son Entertained

  1. “A HACKER’S EPIC QUEST TO KEEP HIS SON ENTERTAINED”, well, I bet it kept his father entertained at least as much, if not more :) Sometimes hackers need a good excuse…

  2. I agree with you on the time distribution thing. Actually it’s a bit sad, to spend that much effort (to awesome effect) providing the kid with some shiny buttons to press, rather than making something (perhaps simpler) as a team effort with the kid. You know, teaching childer that gadgets (and software, etc) are made BY real people, rather than teaching them to “just be happy consumers” (that’s exaggerating it, but I suppose you catch my point).

    1. He might actually have achieved both here. It’s useful also to teach that DIY is not limited to simple stuff (that would be possible to make completely together with the child); he’ll know that his dad built it, even if it is too complex to understand the details yet.

  3. whats wrong with a pile of blocks and a good doses fantasy? he has to push blinking buttons for the rest of his life. give him a break. If you never had to entertain yourself, how do you learn that then?

    1. I think you took the title of this blog waaaaay too serious. I built the ActivityBoard because I enjoy tinkering en though my son was a good excuse for it. He enjoys it. Don’t you worry, he has enough blocks to play with.

    1. Yeah, they’re all pretty much “BACK IN MY DAY”-type false nostalgia.

      The project is cool and good. If you want a “pile of blocks and a good doses [sic] fantasy,” above commenters (not you GK), then maybe get off of the computer and go back to playing with your blocks.

        1. I literally and restoring an old IBM PC 350 I grew up with so that I can study the computer in a more visual interactive way following along traces on the board with an oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer and logic analyzer that is cheaper since the older systems are slower. Plus I grew up with Windows and want a system that runs on the older Win95 for programming directly to the Interrupts and DMA’s in a DOS and Windows environment.

          Figure I’ll go back to where I left off pre-head injury and stuff seems foggy or I really never learned in critical detail.

          Neat seeing all these activity boards around as I don’t recall them growing up. I grew up where most items were child scale and made of materials that didn’t hurt so bad before the devil (d eve ill) was driven out of us or in more laymen terms we figured out what Dad said was more logical and had better substantiation to describe the who, what, when, where, why and how so we wouldn’t just “no” and name call or have a fit when we couldn’t do something adult scale yet, if ever (might not really be the mature thing to do stuff).

          1. Thanks for the reminder Agamemnon Triforce. I do recall playing with something like that… though I don’t really remember much prior to 5-ish maybe due to the poisonous nature of the community I grew up in and I tended to like to socialize with others than my related family. The earliest toys I recall are the Fisher-Price camera and really the TI99/4A. I know I had a range of toys… I just don’t remember due to all the not self inflicted injuries. Good to see more engaging devices for those that aren’t involved with projects like I’m working on now… moles infesting the yard.

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