Sunday, July 5, 2009

Beep If You Love Engineering!

It's nice to get back to the simple joy of being engineer. In it's basic form, being an engineer is seeing a problem, unscrewing the thing, thinking of all the things you can do, picking the best one and hoping it all works out. Catchphrase is one of my favorite games. Basically the unit above shows phrases like "Gone with the wind" or "Not on my watch" and you have to race to get your partner to say as many as you can in a short period of time. Like a game show in your pocket. Only problem is that it is really loud, to the point of annoyance and people not wanting to play.
So Jess and I cracked it open and thought of some ways to dampen the noise:
  • Add a resistor in sequence with the voltage line going to the speaker, lowering it's power to make noise.
  • Damaging/cutting the diaphragm on the speaker.
  • Surrounding the speaker with noise insulation.
  • Soldering in a quieter speaker
  • Re-programming the microcontroller to not make the ticking noise, only the end-of-round noise.
Okay, most of these weren't too serious (though I think this might actually make a good interview question: how many ways can you achieve this goal?). But that's part of engineering. Think of all the things you could do and try the simplest one. We picked noise insulation, in the form of paper crammed into the speaker's plastic housing. It took a few iterations to get the right amount in to get the noise to a pleasant level on the outside. Problem solved.

Sometimes computer scientists aren't considered engineers, and sometimes I certainly feel like a mathematician, a lawyer, or an economist at work. But I definitely enjoy being an engineer every once in a while.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

I found this post through a Google search...I don't suppose you know how to engineer a Catchphrase game for a new database of topics do you? I'm dying to figure out how to change a Catchphrase game for a Bachelorette party gift for my sister in law! Surely it can be done...