Day 1 – Welcome

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Welcome “Sketching with Hardware” term 2013/2014

It feels like that the knowledges of physic science were pretty forgotten since we left school, so did the introduction to electronics and the tutorial videos a great job with refreshing our memories. All participants were quite busy with the classic components and tools like resistors, LEDs, multimeter, switches and a lot of soldering exercises.


The most interesting and funny part came after lunch, where PC keyboards where disassembled so that the controllers can be ‘abused’ for playing games more interactively. The controller is connected via USB port to the PC and a couple of input possibilities were used to generate the same input as pressing a certain key.

Team 1 attached tilt switches to a self-made poncho. The shoulder movements were equally to the left and right arrow keys on keyboard. The player can wear the poncho to play a snow boarding game on PC.


Team 2 also used tilt switches to play a adventure game. By steadily tilting the control element, one controlled the game character’s movement and the direction he was running to.


Team 3 took a game where one has to decide if the shown image of a hand is the left or the right hand. They had the nice idea to directly build capacitive switches with conductive material on the finger tips. When the forefinger touched the thumb tip, the switch was closed. The input interaction was a good mapping to the game.


Team 4 created a jumping game where the player is also jumping in the real physical world. The switch was bounded to the feet and everytime the player jumps, the jump command for the game was toggled.


Team 5 used a glove with tilt sensors attached. The game was hitting a PC to release aggresion. The player should make punching movements with the glove on, which was mapped as arrow keys. It was funny to see how a PC get smashed in a flash game while you are punching in front of the screen.


Team 6 glued two tilt switches on a little board for a game where one has to balance balls on a board. Tilting the real board made the flash game board tilt in the same direction.

Day 1

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Welcome to Sketching with Hardware in summer term 2013!

Our first day started out with a very basic introduction to electrical engineering (resistors, capacitors, switches) and was followed by a rather weird team-finding process.  When everybody had found their partner-animal by imitating said animals noise (or mating call?), we were ready to go. First exercises included the multimeter, soldering and LEDs, so we were prepared for the afternoon session.

After lunch, it was time for the fun part. Each team was given a keyboard, which would then be torn apart carefully disassembled. The component we looked for was the controller. It connects the keys to the computer via USB and allowed us to generate inputs in other ways than typing a key. The teams then chose a simple game and built a custom controller for it:

Team 1:

Robot Unicorn Attack – Jump to jump and shoot stars by shaking the thing in your hand. Whatever that thing was…


Team 2:

Racing game: A styrofoam steering wheel and the accelerator pedal built from a keyboard package guarantee the ultimate racing feeling.


Team 3:

Pong for feet: Why use your hands for playing pong?


Team 4:

Play curvefever with your keyboards package instead of the keyboard!


Team 5:

A recycled joystick for racing, made of whatever was left, including a drain pipe…


Team 6:

Wireless ball game – shoot a penalty with a real ball. Bluetooth keyboard hack and self coded game!


Day 1.

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Our first day of Sketching with Hardware started with the principles of electrical engineering.

Hendrik and Sebastian, our advisors, taught us that current is actually quite similar to water. Resistance and voltage were explained, as well as some electrical components like transistors, resistors, potentiometers etc.

Now that we knew the bascis, the fun part of the couse was ready to start!

After the (somewhat embarassing) animalistic teamfinding process, six teams consisting of two students were formed.

Each team received a box, filled with wires, a breadboard, a solderstation, a multimeter an arduino and lots of fun stuff.

The teams explored the practical side of electrical engineering before the first assignment had to be fulfilled: Take a keyboard and create a new form of gamecontroller.

The keyboard was taken apart and the keyboard-controller was removed in order to use it for our purposes. First, each team had to find out which pins on the controller had to be connected for which key (e.g. Space or Arrows).

90 Minutes later (or maybe a little bit more..) six awesome came controllers were presented:

  1. This controller lets the gamecharacter jump by fliping the ball up. A button on the outside of the ball triggers a shoot in the game.
  2. The second team created a contro(w)ller..well, it is supposed to look like an owl and controlled an owl-game. 4 Ballswitches in the center tracked the movement of the ball and triggered the different arrow keys. Oh, and not to forget: The Owl had LED eyes!

  3. Team three had the idea of using the conductivity of water. They filled a ball with a small amount of water which connected two wires at a time.
  4. The fourth team designed a customized controller for „robot unicorn attack“. A Magic wand which fires wishes and a unicorn-tail that, once pulled, forces the unicorn to jump.
  5. Team five made a styropor-steering-wheel for a racing game. The controller worked with Ballswitches that triggered the arrow keys.
  6. Last but not least: The sixth team. Why not controll a car with..a car! The car-controller has four ball switches inside that trigger the arrow keys. A button which looks like a siren pushes the space-key.

Day 1

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First day of the Sketching with Hardware practical course. When the advisors had introduced themselves and some formalities were settled, we started with the basics of electrical engineering. First, we approached the physical relationships between resistance, current and voltage. Then electrical circuits and their components were explained in more detail.
Once the most relevant components and their usage were illustrated, it came to hands-on testing. Armed with a multimeter, we proceeded to measure voltages and resistances and checked connections for continuity.
Based on this basic knowledge we constructed simple circuits on breadboards on our own. Equipped with battery, jumpers, resistors, diodes, switches, buttons and capacitors, we applied the previously learned contents practically.

Following the lunch break the course continued very practically. A keyboard controller extracted from a computer keyboard served as a starting point for small group work. The goal was to design a creative way of interaction for computer games. The concept was to short two contacts of the keyboard controller to send a specific signal to the computer. After we found out what contacts corresponded to which key on the keyboard (e.g. the arrow keys) we could replace these by self-designed switches.


Day 1: Electronic Basics and Keyboard Hacking

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Getting excited

Monday 9 a.m. – the best time and day to start off this practical course with an introduction to electronics. Sebastian and Hendrik explained the most basic parts and concepts to give us some fundamental knowledge for the upcoming tinkering. We learned about current, resistors, LEDs, transistors, Ohm’s law and so on. After that, the fun part started when we received some basic soldering training and learned how to apply a multimeter to measure various parameters. Unfortunately, the need for coffee could not be measured precisely by that device.

Keyboard Hacking

After lunch, we began hacking keyboards: By opening the backs of the brand new devices and removing unnecessary parts in an unscrupulous act, we salvaged the main component, the control unit. Modifying these control units allowed us to send input manually to the connected computers, using several new and rather unusual interaction methods.  The main topic for this modification task was the idea of creating a new “game controller”. So we teamed up in groups of two, following probably THE most ridiculous way to find the partner: draw a card from a hat and make the sound of the animal that’s written on that very card. This actually happened and we can prove it whenever necessary. So the groups and gave new life to the poor little keyboards that we tore apart like a hungry lion hunting down a gnu. Some of the results are shown in the pictures below.

In general, no special preparations were made for this task. Apart from the keyboards, we just used what was available from the institute’s tremendous pool of parts, known to some as the chamber of horrors.
While the design wasn’t the primary goal and pretty much reminded of traditional gamepads, some ideas didn’t rely on moving within a game via ordinary buttons, but instead by tilting the device. This feature was enabled through the use of super-awesome “ball switches“. On top of that, buttons triggered special actions like shooting. One group added a foot-pedal as well, to take the player’s game experience to a higher level for a racing game – pedal to the metal and Mario Kart was pwnd.
Another group created their own game, using contacts attached to the floor and one foot of the player. It was therefore possible to detect real jumps. The challenge of the game then was to achieve the longest “air time” possible (by this point, you might have noticed the pic with the one guy walking on air. Don’t worry – he eventually came down and did not have to stay up there).
A cool concept was created for a balancing game: Here, the controller most closely resembled the actual appearance of the game itself where the player would stand upon a simple seesaw-like balancing board, which could then be rocked from one side to the other to keep several balls from falling off a shifting wooden plank within the game. N1.

See ya tomorrow

At the end of this first day we have already gained some general experience with creating and modifying electronic devices. Overall, the idea of “sketching” became clearly visible, which is fundamental to this course. Always remember, kids: We are not here to develop highly refined products, but prototypes – or, well, sketches. Hacking a keyboard gave us a good first impression of what this means, but we bet there’s a lot more to come.

Hacking a USB keyboard

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For the practical part of the first day every group gets a package containing a multimeter, a soldering iron, a side cutter, screwdrivers, LEDs, resistors, all kinds of other handy electronic toys the core part of our future projects: the Arduino Uno Board (

Equipped with those essentials tools we are ready for the first practical task of the day. To learn the handling of the multimeter and the soldering iron, we are asked to measure the resistance of different resistors and afterwards solder it to a board.

The afternoon challenge is to hack a USB keyboard and transform it into any game controller we can think of. Every team therefor chooses a computer game and develops its own individual game controller. But first, we need to learn how to hack a USB Keyboard…

Hacking a USB keyboard

There are various descriptions and tutorials, how to hack a keyboard on the Internet. Arduino offers a very nice German tutorial that explains all the steps in detail.

In the following you find a short description of the single steps:

Step 1: Open up the keyboard

First we need to remove all screws at the back and open up the keyboard. To hack a keyboard we need the controller of the keyboard. It is practical to use hot-melt glue to fix the fragile parts (cables) of the controller and make sure that the controller doesn’t get damaged when it is taken out.

At the bottom of the controller plate is a number of connection pads. If there is contact finish on the pads, we need to remove it with a small piece of sandpaper to make sure that we can solder cable tails to it later.

Step 2: Trace the letters back to the pins

Every controller is different. Therefore it is necessary to test the pin configuration. This can be done by using the sheets with the conductive tracings of the keyboard and a multimeter. We connect one end of the multimeter to the key that we want to use and test the ends at the controller for a signal.

Step 3: Attaching wires and

Now we can solder wires to the chosen pins and connect them to any kind of sensor, switch or whatever else you can think of…

Keyboard Hacks of each group:

Group A:

Anna Follmann, Beatrix Vad

Game Controller – Super Cruiser

Super Cruiser is a kind of wheel. You can control a game, for example a Race Game by tilting it to any side. Tilt it to the front to accelerate, tilt right or left to change your direction.

Technically it is realized with three Ball-Switches. The Button on the top works with copper band and a feather which was unter the Enter Key of the keyboard.

Group B:

Johannes Preis, Chadly Marouane

Game Controller – Jump & Run

This Game Controller for Jump & Run games, brings the feeling of Jumping to the real world. Each time the user want the player to jump he has also to jump.

A cardboard lying on the floor detects if the user touches it. If not he is probably jumping. With a stick you can control the running direction of the player.

Group C:

Verena Lerch, Frederick Brudy

Game Controller – Fire Joystick

With the Fire Joystick you can control various games. You can change your direction with tilting the joystick. For firing/hitting or any other game action you can use the button on directly on the joystick or hitting a button on the floor with your foot.

This Controller works also with Ball switches to detect inclination. The Buttons a build with copper band.

Group D:

Maraike Stuffler, Robert Rödler

Game Controller – Kung Fu Fighter

Kung Fu Fighter is a fighting game. The player can hit with his fists or with his feet. Exactly this realizes the Kung Fu Fighter Game Controller. You can hit a cardboard with your fists and one with your feet. To run through the game world you turn a pice of plastic to the right or left.

The cardboard buttons are realized with two peaces of cardboard with a little bit of space in between.On each side there is a copper band. When the two copper bands touch each other the button fires. The controller for running uses ball swiches.

Group E:

Kyun-Jing Park, Lorenz Schauer

Game Controller – Air Joystick

The Air Joystick is like a normal Game-Joystick but without a base. It has a button on the top for interaction with a game.

This Joystick has an very special Button on the top. It uses the conductivity of a human finger. When the user touches the top of the joystick, he closes an electric circuit.

Group F:

Verena Hillgärtner, Bernhard Hering

Music Instrument – Music fist

Music fist is a music interface for a computer. You can use it with a software keyboard that matches keyboard inputs to MIDI signals. By turning your arm around you can change the tone. With the buttons on the top of the instrument you can decide if you play or not.

The selection of the tones is realized with 8 ball switches. Ball switches only switch when there is an inclination modification by 45 degrees. So this tool uses two struggles with 4 ball switches. You can switch between these struggles with the 3 different buttons on the top.


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Have you ever asked yourself, how to create a mega cool game controller for your favorite games?

Yes? – But did you also think about creating it by yourself? If you think, that this is very complicated and to expensive for you, let me tell you: it’s not!

The practical course “Sketching with hardware” at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University started today. During the following 7 days, students of that course will learn to use electronic components, to create new creative user interactions and they will realize their own hardware project. Theoretical background about physical laws and electricity is also taught like the practical usage of instruments to build a new and useful controller out of old electronic components.

Sketching with hardware is fun and students can experiment with many different components and instruments.

But the best thing is: it doesn’t have to cost much money to create a mega cool game controller or a creative user interaction method!

In our practical course, we just use old or cheap electronic components, we put them together and so, with many ideas and updates, we’ll be able to create a new and powerful or just funny method of user interaction at the end of your journey.


But let’s talk about what happened today in the first lesson.

After we had introduced ourselves, the lecturers put us into two-pairs, because the course and the project have to be realized by two. We changed places and listened to the theoretical part about physical and electronic backgrounds. We saw some tutorials which gave us a good introduction about resistors, solder practice and transistors.

Before lunch time, we had some practical exercises of soldering.

SWH Slides Part One