DIY Gameshow Buzzer

College Savings Plan
October 9, 2012
DIY Screen Printing Press
October 9, 2012

DIY Gameshow Buzzer

DIY Game Show Buzzer System

This Game Show Buzzer theoretically system supports over 25 buzzers and can be made without a drop of solder! It’s perfect for the DIYer who is working on a budget and does not have a lot of electronics experience.  Of course, if you want to do a tiny bit of soldering, your button choices open up a bunch.  I could have made this a straight through tutorial, but instead I wanted to show a few options so you can decide how fancy you want to get and how much you want to spend. I’ve broken this up into two sections…the brain and the buzzers.  The system I made is setup to be used with the Game Show Presenter software found at almorale.com.   I didn’t want to spend the kind of money that people pay for these buzzer systems, so I built this in about a day.  These plans are my gift to you.  I hope they’re a blessing.

Intro

 

This Game Show Buzzer theoretically system supports over 25 buzzers and can be made without a drop of solder! It’s perfect for the DIYer who is working on a budget and does not have a lot of electronics experience.  Of course, if you want to do a tiny bit of soldering, your button choices open up a bunch.  I could have made this a straight through tutorial, but instead I wanted to show a few options so you can decide how fancy you want to get and how much you want to spend. I’ve broken this up into two sections…the brain and the buzzers.  The system I made is setup to be used with the Game Show Presenter software found at almorale.com.   I didn’t want to spend the kind of money that people pay for these buzzer systems, so I built this in about a day.  These plans are my gift to you.  I hope they’re a blessing.

 

The Brain

100_0372

The brain of the system is a box that basically emulates a keyboard. Each “buzzer” basically is a button press of 0-9 on the keyboard. The brain box can be as big or small as you want.  You can add the buttons to simulate ABCD (for Answers) and Enter/SPACE for controlling the game… or you don’t have to.  But here’s what you need.

Supplies

A Case — This can be pretty much anything. I used a case that was made to store nuts and bolts.  You could use one of those useless plastic cases that power tools come in.  You could build one out of wood, or even go to an electronics store and buy what they call a “project box.”  Either way. My suggestion would be to use something free like I did.

100_0371100_0361

A Keyboard Controller — This truly is the “brain” of the system. It connects to your pc via USB or PS/2 connector and has places for wires to be connected for your switches.   You have 3 options here depending on your budget and electronics expertise

1. The Keywiz – My personal choice for no other reason that (believe it or not) I had one laying (or is it lying?) around.  It works great. You screw the wires in and you can even use the included software to change what the buttons.  You can also have multiple profiles if you want to use this thing with lots of different software. If different software uses different buttons, you can reprogram it via software. It’s about $35-$40 from groovygamegear.com.

keywizipac

2.  The I-PAC Controller.  Pretty much the USB equivalent of the KeyWiz. These things are usually used for building arcade machines, and both the I-Pak and the Keywiz have their own following. This one is also USB.  The basic one is about $35 from ultimarc.com.

3.  You can hack a keyboard.  What this basically means is you take an old keyboard apart and use the controller inside of it. It’s not for the faint of heart.  You’re welcome to try.  You can just Google the term hack a keyboard and give it a whirl.

Some Wire — You have lots of choices here.  I decided to make my controllers removable with RJ-45 (network) connectors, so I used scrap network Cat5 wire.  If you want to remove them with phone jacks (RJ-11) then you can use phone wire.  If you want to use headphone/rca/some other type of solder connector, I would use 18/2 stranded wire because it’s more durable.  If you don’t want to remove the controllers at all (which will save you a LOT of complication and a LOT of money), go with 18/2 and just wire it straight to the controller.

Optional Supplies

Connectors – If you do want to add the convenience (and the complication) of making your controllers removable, then you will need male and female connectors for everything you wanted to do. My 8 controller setup with 2 breakout boxes used 10 female and 10 male connectors.  I used the RJ-45 because I had so much of it around.  If I was going out and buying the stuff and soldering wasn’t an issue, I would suggest 1/8″ female mono normally open (very important) jacks and 1/8″ male mono plugs.

Buttons – I really like the idea of having buttons on the box itself.  If you’re going to use buttons, they need to be SPST Momentary Contact switches.  You have tons of choices here, and even more choices if you don’t mind soldering.  If you’re going to mount them on the outside of the box like I did, would suggest arcade buttons. They’re $1.50 each and I’ve shot them at point blank with a paintball gun and they didn’t break (don’t ask…that was a different project).  Arcade buttons can be found on Ebay and they can be crimped instead of soldered.  If you don’t want to use arcade buttons, just find a button you like.  You’ll need 6.

arcade buttonmomentary button

Assembly

1.  Do all of your drilling and cutting on your box.  Arcade buttons should be drilled with a 1 1/8″ drill bit.  Drill all of your buttons, jacks (if necessary) and any other holes you want to cut in your box.

2. Decide where your keyboard controller is going to go.  It might be easier not to acutally mount it, but it will help you know how long to make the wires.

100_0367

3.  If you put buttons on the case, wire them to A, B, C, D, Enter, and Space on your keyboard controller.  A wire goes from one pole of each switch to the correct place on the keyboard  controller.  I connected the second pole of all 6 switches together and ran it to the ground of the keyboard controller.

100_0365100_0366

100_0368

4a.  If you are putting jacks on the outside of the case, connect all the grounds together and run them to ground on the keyboard controller (I crimped all the grounds  from the case buttons and the buzzers together and ran 1 wire to the ground on the keyboard controller).  Wire the other side of the jacks to your number keys on the keyboard controller. The Game Show Presenter uses 1-9 for players 1-9 and 0 for player 10.   (I will put specific advice for wiring the RJ-45 jacks at the bottom of this article as it’s a little more complicated)

4b.  If you are NOT putting jacks on the outside of the case, I strongly suggest that you tire your buzzer wires in a loose knot on the inside of the case (or use some sort of crimp connector) to prevent the wires from being ripped out of the keyboard controller.   Each of your buzzer buttons will have 2 wires.  One wire goes  to 0-9 on the keyboard controller, the other goes to ground (I crimped all the grounds  from the case buttons and the buzzers together and ran 1 wire to the ground on the keyboard controller).   The Game Show Presenter uses 1-9 for players 1-9 and 0 for player 10.

100_0369

5.  Mount your keyboard controller and check all your wiring to make sure that the case opens and closes without issue.  You might want to use some zip ties to hold things in place.

100_0387100_0388

6. You’re done!!!!

 

The Buzzers

Your selection of buzzers will have a lot to do with the look and the feel of the game you’re playing. The most obvious thing question is, “how many buzzers do you need?”  Beyond that, do you want each person to have to hold the buzzer? Do you want them to slap the buzzer?  That’s why I made my system modular.  I have made several styles of buzzers and intend on making several more. Here are some options.

Very Simple Slap Buzzers

100_0389

Supplies

Wood — Pretty self explanatory.  Build a box to contain the buzzers.  You could build a square or if you want all the players standing in a line, you could build some sort of long rectangle. If you do a square, I suggest putting players 1 and 2 across from each other so they can “face off.”

Buttons — In this situation, there’s only 1 way to go…arcade buzzers. They’re $1.50 each and they can handle a lot of abuse.

Wire and Connectors – Your wire choice is pretty much dictated by how you built your box.

 

Assembly

1.  Build a box.  Or find something premade that will work.  Drill holes in your kitchen table and put the buttons through. It really doesn’t matter.

2.  Install the buttons. Each arcade button needs a 1 1/8″ hole drilled.  I suggest using a paddle bit. I also drill part way through the top and once the point of the bit beaks through the bottom, I flip the box over and drill from the back. It makes a lot cleaner hole.

100_0375

3.  Wire the buttons.  I used crimp connectors (sta-cons) to attach to the buzzers themselves and crimped an RJ-45 connector on the “brain” side.  On this side, I did not connect all my “common” wires together. I ran each pair back to the box as a set, 2 wires per switch.

100_0376

4. Run your wire from your button box, to the “brain.”   I made my long wire permanently connected to the button box. If I had it to do over again, I would make the wire disconnect from it.  Notice that I did tie a knot in the wire so it doesn’t rip my connections off

5. Test it and you’re done!

 

Handheld Push Button Buzzers

Supplies

For each buzzer

8″ of 3/4″ PVC pipe

2 3/4″ PVC Caps

1 Radio Shack 275-609 momentary contact push button

Wire

Optional Supplies

Male and Female Jacks – to be able to disconnect your buzzers

Assembly

For each buzzer….

1. Cut pieces of 3/4″ pvc pipe to the length of about 7″-8″.

100_0373

2. Carefully drill a hole in the center of a 3/4″ pvc cap that the wire will barely slide through.

3. Slide about a foot of wire through the cap and tie a loose knot at the 1′ mark on the wire.

100_0379

4.  Strip most of the insulation off the wire above the knot.

5. Slip the pipe over the wire and into the cap

100_0380

6. Drill a hole in another cap for the pushbutton. For the Radio Shack buttons listed above, I used a 1/2″ drill bit.

7. Slip the switch through the hole. Put on the washer and nut. The Radio Shack buttons used a 14mm deep socket to put the nut on.

100_0377

8. Strip the end of each of the wires and solder them to the switch, being careful not to melt the pvc, burn yourself, or connect the 2 pins of the switch together.  Note: If you find the right switches, you might be able to crimp the connectors instead.  If you don’t know how to solder, youtube is a great place to learn.

100_0382

9. Carefully tuck the wires in the pipe and push the top on

100_0392

10.  If you are using connectors, attach them to the other end of the wire. If you are wiring straight to the keyboard controller and haven’t done so yet, wire one wire to the 0-9 on the controller and the other to ground.

RJ-45 Specific Advice

The main reason I used RJ-45 network connectors is because I wanted to show you that you can build this system without soldering. If you are not good at soldering or are afraid of it, this is the way to go.  If you don’t mind soldering, then using headphone connectors really are the best choice.  The wire is more flexible and durable and you won’t have the headaches of trying to figure out where those wires go once they get into the connectors.

One big advantage of using the RJ-45 though, is the ability to do the break out boxes. Basically one Cat5 (or Cat3 or Cat 6) network wire can handle 4 buttons. Technically I guess you could do 7 if you ran all the buttons through one ground, but I wouldn’t.  So, to make a breakout box, basically what I did was ran 1 Cat 5 cable and used one of those modular 4 jack plates to “split” the wire into 4 sets.  The weird thing here is that it’s really kind of hard to tell where the wires go once you put them in the jack, so let me show you how I wired it. (note that I didn’t use the standard network color order, because I wanted to keep the pairs together)

***These are my color abbreviations…

G- Green

GW – Green and White

Bl – Blue

BlW – Blue and White

Br – Brown

BrW – Brown and White

O – Orange

OW – Orange and White

 

***On every PLUG (male) that needed all 8 wires, I wired them from left to right…

G  GW  Bl  BlW  Br  BrW  O  OW

rj-45_connector

I crimp from left to right with the little tab DOWN on the connector

 

***On every PLUG (male) that only needed 2 wires (like for the buzzers)…

I wired the pair I was using in the left 2 positions of the plug

 

***In the breakout boxes where the JACKS (female) only needed 2 of the 8 wires…

I wired to the 2 connectors to the far right on the bottom row

100_0386

 

*** On the brain side where I needed all 8 connectors of a jack to work, I wired it like this…

Br    BlW    GW     G

OW   O        Bl     BrW

 

I hope these instructions help, and if you have any comments or need help, please feel free to contact me!