Adapted Bumbleballs for Play Therapy

Designers: Thomas Pawlowski, Sam Cho
Client Coordinators: Lenore Champion
Supervising Professor: Dr. Larry N. Bohs

Children with brain disorders caused by disease or head trauma often have limited motor skills. Playing with objects that stimulate the senses helps facilitate their recovery and enables them to learn cause and effect ideas. The objective of this project is to modify Bumbleballs for children with brain injuries at Duke Hospital.  This is achieved by replacing the original small activation switch with several   different activation methods, including a large touch switch, a voice sensor, a photo sensor, a remote switch, and a magnetic sensor.

How this project helped
The modified Bumbleballs enable children to learn for themselves how to play and operate the toy without aid from the therapist, thus teaching them cause and effect principles involved activating the different Bumbleballs.  Because the Bumbleballs     can be activated by the patient, the therapist is better able to observe and assess the development level of the children as they learn and master different activation methods. According to Lenore Champion, Occupational Therapist at Duke Hospital: “The modified Bumbleballs allow children who are motorically impaired or simply too young to access a normal bumbleball some control over a simple toy, which is an effective and stimulating activity.”

The photo ball (Fig. 2) incorporates 11 photoresistors which are mounted symmetrically on the surface of the Bumbleball. These photoresistors are connected in parallel in the base-biasing network of a Darlington transistor switch (GE-D44E1). When a flashlight is shined on one or more of the photoresistors, the transistor switch turns on, which activates the motor of the Bumbleball.  The ball is active as long as light flashes on it.  Four LED’s mounted to the ball’s surface turn on when the ball is activated, allowing the movement of the ball to be seen in a dark room.

Large Switch Ball
The schematic for this ball is shown in Fig. 3. A large pushbutton switch is attached to the surface of the ball.When the switch is pressed, it triggers a 555 timer, which provides an activation duration of 10 seconds. A power transistor provides sufficient current to drive the motor.  All circuitry is enclosed in the ball.

Audio Ball
The audio ball (Fig. 4) uses a microphone mounted on a small external box that is tethered to the Bumbleball by a 4-foot wire. The signal from the microphone is high pass filtered, amplified, and compared to a threshold before triggering a 555 timer and power transistor circuit. A switch on the external box selects one of two threshold levels, which allows the ball to be activiated by relatively louder or softer sounds. The ball activates for 5 seconds after a sound exceeding the threshold is made.Two AA batteries power the microphone and associated circuitry.

Magnetic Ball
The magnetic ball (Fig. 5) uses 11 magnetic reed switches, connected in parallel and attached symmetrically to the surface of the Bumbleball. A magnet, attached    to a “magic wand”, closes a reed switch when it is brought within 1.25″ of the switch. The circuit provides a 4 second duration of activation whenever one of the switches is activated.

The large button and photo balls cost $5-$8. The magnetic and remote ball cost $80 each. The bumble balls themselves cost $10.

Remote Ball
The remote ball uses a Remote Radio Saucer Switch (Enabling Devices) for activation. The receiver pack plugs into a 1/8″ jack on the side of the ball. When the remote switch/transmitter is pressed, the receiver closes a relay that connects power to the Bumbleball. The ball runs continuously as long as the remote switch is depressed. An additional 1/8″ jack mounted on the remote transmitter allows any switch to be used.

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