Building a buzzer

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jhn31
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Building a buzzer

Post by jhn31 »

Since the Campus Activities Board here has so kindly banned us from borrowing any of the 3 buzzers sets that they only use once a year, we've decided to try to build our own buzzer set.
I know I once saw a website with directions on how to do that, but I was unable to find it on Google. Can any of you link me to it?
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by grapesmoker »

jhn31 wrote:Since the Campus Activities Board here has so kindly banned us from borrowing any of the 3 buzzers sets that they only use once a year, we've decided to try to build our own buzzer set.
I know I once saw a website with directions on how to do that, but I was unable to find it on Google. Can any of you link me to it?
A long time ago, with the help of my dad I reverse-engineered the Quizamatic, and I may still have the schematics for it somewhere. However, this is not my recommended way of building a buzzer.

There are two avenues worth exploring, both of which involve using a laptop as a buzzer system. One of them is worthwhile if you're technologically advanced, and that is to buy your own USB microcontroller and program it to work like a buzzer when a button is pressed, and then build a USB buzzer around that. It's a project I may attempt in the future, but I don't know much about writing USB programs at the device level, so I can't really help you there. The other possibility is to buy a USB DAQ (of the sort sold by Measurement Computing, among others) and connect buzzers to the digital I/O ports. I have an idea for how to do this and could draw up a schematic if you want. Then you would have to write a simple application that polls the DAQ to figure out whether a particular player has buzzed in. It's a lot easier than writing device-level software for USB microcontrollers, but will probably cost more in the long run.
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by pray for elves »

Alternately, if you have a soldering gun, you could start with something like this and plans like these (warning, pdf). Of course, that schematic is for a four-person system, but you can chain two of them together.
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by cdcarter »

Space geostrategy wrote:Alternately, if you have a soldering gun, you could start with something like this and plans like these (warning, pdf). Of course, that schematic is for a four-person system, but you can chain two of them together.
Also see this [url=http://www.svbz.com/schematic.html].
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by Kyle »

Harvard quizbowler John Lesieutre has often expressed his fascination with the idea of building a USB buzzer and might have some insight into how to go about it. What I remember of his latest proposal was that it involved taking a USB keypad (the kind used for entering debit card PINs at the grocery store) and ripping out the numbers, replacing each with the cord to a buzzer. John seems convinced that this would require very little actual programming: that the computer would simply have to be told to display the number that had been hit first and then make some sort of noise. He tells me about the scheme often enough that I'm sure he would like you to let him know if you plan to try it out; his email address is jdles (at) fas (dot) harvard (dot) edu.

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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by Wall of Ham »

Science bowl has a schematic diagram for building buzzers, as well as a materials list. Apparently you can purchase all the parts at Radioshack. Not sure how helpful this is though, as I really don't understand much of it.

http://www.scied.science.doe.gov/nsb/buzzer.htm
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by Eärendil »

We've had some talk at practice about the possibility of having a wireless buzzer system, thereby eliminating all cable spaghetti-induced frustration. One of our freshmen has enthusiastically embraced this idea. I personally don't see how it would be practical, as the hand units would have to be powered by some mechanism and the last thing you'd want at a tournament is a TD short on AAAs. Still, if you're looking for an engineering project...
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by NoahMinkCHS »

A friend of mine built a buzzer for the You Don't Know Jack! computer game. That game used keyboard input as its buzzer, so I believe he just took an old keyboard and figured out what it did to tell the computer it was pressing space bar or whatever... from there, it was pretty simple to wire up a buzzer to replace the keys. (I say that, but all I know about this is what he told me, like 3 years ago, and the vague recollection that it worked.) Anyway, it seems logical enough, and also pretty easy... and then from there all you'd have to do is write software to capture "key presses" and lock people out. And at least for me, that would be a lot easier than building hardware. PLUS, it's (I'd guess) simple to find instructions on the internet for keyboard mods... whereas build-your-own lockout buzzer is a pretty niche subject.
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

Eärendil wrote:We've had some talk at practice about the possibility of having a wireless buzzer system, thereby eliminating all cable spaghetti-induced frustration. One of our freshmen has enthusiastically embraced this idea. I personally don't see how it would be practical, as the hand units would have to be powered by some mechanism and the last thing you'd want at a tournament is a TD short on AAAs. Still, if you're looking for an engineering project...
My HS had a set of wireless buzzers that belonged to the Science Bowl club. They lagged.
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by grapesmoker »

Kyle wrote:Harvard quizbowler John Lesieutre has often expressed his fascination with the idea of building a USB buzzer and might have some insight into how to go about it. What I remember of his latest proposal was that it involved taking a USB keypad (the kind used for entering debit card PINs at the grocery store) and ripping out the numbers, replacing each with the cord to a buzzer. John seems convinced that this would require very little actual programming: that the computer would simply have to be told to display the number that had been hit first and then make some sort of noise. He tells me about the scheme often enough that I'm sure he would like you to let him know if you plan to try it out; his email address is jdles (at) fas (dot) harvard (dot) edu.
Well, I'll contact John about it if I decide to seriously work on making one of these. I'd just caution against assuming that any of these options (whether USB or keyboard modification or other) are going to be easy. My main motivation for pushing the USB angle is that it's a very convenient thing from the user side, and if you learn how to do it once, producing multiple buzzers is very simple.
Jerry Vinokurov
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by ellenw »

jhn31, who did you speak with in CAB? I wouldn't give up just yet on checking out the sets- you just need to speak with the right people. Did you talk to the AD of Campus Unions? She'd be a good place to start. In theory, if those buzzers were purchased with your student activities fee, they should be available to the student body for check out. However, they may be limiting your access if you aren't a registered student group - if that's the case, you can either 1) start an academic competition student org or 2) check the buzzers out via an already registered group (make friends with an RA or an ASG member, they tend to know the right people). (Then start your own group so you can check it out on your own in the future.) If it's something else entirely, I'd be interested in knowing what, because that's a pretty odd thing for them to not allow.

If you have questions about approaching student affairs administrators, shoot me an email.
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by jhn31 »

ellenw wrote:jhn31, who did you speak with in CAB? I wouldn't give up just yet on checking out the sets- you just need to speak with the right people. Did you talk to the AD of Campus Unions? She'd be a good place to start. In theory, if those buzzers were purchased with your student activities fee, they should be available to the student body for check out. However, they may be limiting your access if you aren't a registered student group - if that's the case, you can either 1) start an academic competition student org or 2) check the buzzers out via an already registered group (make friends with an RA or an ASG member, they tend to know the right people). (Then start your own group so you can check it out on your own in the future.) If it's something else entirely, I'd be interested in knowing what, because that's a pretty odd thing for them to not allow.

If you have questions about approaching student affairs administrators, shoot me an email.
We are an official student organization, have checked them out in the past, and are now not allowed to check them out any more. Also the woman in charge was really rude to me when I asked why and just said they'd changed their policy. When I said we'd be willing to pay she said "oh no, they are NOT for sale!"
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by AlphaQuizBowler »

If you take a look at this thread, you'll find a program for reporting which button of a keyboard was pressed first and keeping score.
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by Kilby »

I had an idea that I started working on for making a cheap buzzer system using a laptop and the controllers from the PS2 game Buzz:

http://www.amazon.com/BUZZ-The-Mega-Qui ... B000UH82QM

The buzzers that come with the game are daisy chained and connect via USB. If you plug them into a Windows machine, Windows will detect them as a 20-button game controller. I spent a few minutes and wrote a custom Flash application that was a very basic buzzer recognition program. Since Flash doesn't support controller input, I had to use another program to convert controller input to keystrokes. It worked, so I would like to eventually develop a fuller program implementing features like custom buzzer noises and recognizing the order of buzzes. If I ever get around to building such a program, I'd probably just release it for free to anyone who would want to use it.

While the buzzers aren't the highest quality, a set of four with the game retails for $40 and can be found for $25 - $35 with shipping on eBay. You can also sell the game to shave a few more dollars off. In the end, you are looking at between $50 and $80 for an 8-player computer-based buzzer system with some unique features.
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by jazzteach »

Hi Kilby,
I just bought a set of blast controllers for the ps2 to hopefully do what you talk about. I use the AL Morale Game show program to help kids get ready for the Star Test here in California. The Game show program works with lock out systems I have purchased on ebay. The game lets you indicate what letter or numbers keys will respond when the controllers are pushed. It is done in the original set up of each of the quizzes you make. Do you have any idea or program that would make these controllers work with the Al Morale Game show? I would be willing to pay you for building a program to do this!
Thanks mucho,
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Re: Building a buzzer

Post by evilmonkey »

jhn31 wrote: We are an official student organization, have checked them out in the past, and are now not allowed to check them out any more. Also the woman in charge was really rude to me when I asked why and just said they'd changed their policy. When I said we'd be willing to pay she said "oh no, they are NOT for sale!"
:w-hat:
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