Maker Ranger–Round up

Maker Ranger didn’t get blogged well as a project, due to a very challenging project in the time I had to execute it in.

This post is to round up some of the missing information and photos from that project.

The project also got a good write up here:


The two wheels show each player, which animal they need to find in “the wild”, buckets full of animals represent the wild. The potential ranger must place the animal in the health scanner to check its health. The RFID tag in each animal ensures the player chose the correct animal.

The animal scanners do a cools led chase sequence as the animals are scanned and the player returns them to the wild.

The players must hit the big industrial button to be assigned the next animal to find.

One successfully finding and scanning the health of a pre-set number  of animals, one player wins, but both have “I’m a qualified Maker Ranger” stickers printed for them.


Families got very competitive over being the first to complete and much fun was had, with queues all day at the fairs we attended.


LCD Shields

Each player will need instructions during the operation of the game. The “wheel of fortune” idea is great (if it works in time), but if the design doesn't work, or the motors break or this part of the game malfunctions, then it is wise to have a back up method of communicating the next animal to pick. There will be over game instructions where it could be helpful to have LCD displays to instruct the player. As previously mentioned, I am desperately trying to avoid using normal computer monitors for anything as I think they are an easy way out, and besides they don’t look “maker enough”…

So if it is to be LCD displays, I’ve considered a single display, where the top line of the display could instruct one player, the second line, the other. The problem with this idea will be that the players are spaced out on a six foot table. I don’t think the small LCD would be easy to position so that both players can read it. Thus two LCD displays are required.

LCD is familiar, taking the design using a 74HC595 IC from Using alphanumeric LCDs  - Szymon Kobalczyk's Blog, a “backpak” can be built for the displays, one for each.

Using the great Fritzing software the following design was made, using 0.1” header sockets on the backpak and male headers on the display. This design, due to the layout of the IC and to minimise wiring, has the backpak above the display. For Makerfaire I actually want this, as maker people want to see the electronics, so the more exposed the better.

At this stage I am thinking of mounting the LCDs in an “L” shaped transparent acrylic sheet, so the electronics can be seen, and the displays  positioned wherever suits the layout of the table or users. It must be remembered that the fairs attract short and tall. The connectors shown on the Netduino connect into the headers on the board of the corresponding sizes.

LCD 595 Netduino_bb

These are the two backpaks finished, just need power and the SPI bus passing into the header connectors. These backpaks should be reusable on other projects in the future too.

LCD Shield

Starting to wire

After gluing the RFID boards into the middle of the cages, it is time to start wiring. Lessons from previous exhibits say that broken wires at connectors/joints were the most frequent problem. For this reason, where there is a need, then there will be a connector to keep the wires from being strained as the exhibit is moved around.

RFID Mounted

RFID Mounted

RFID connectors – heat shrink will follow for strain relief.

RFID Cables

Scan buttons

The visitors will be expected to scan the health of each animal, to start the scan they must press the green buttons. The buttons have now been wired and have connectors on them, so they are ready to connect to the main board.