Remote Controlled, Talking Spinner

Designers:  Steven Gebhart, Jennifer Meuchel

Client Coordinators: Sue Porr, Pinehurst Elementary School

Supervising Professor: Dr. Larry N. Bohs

Commercial audio spinner devices provide only a one-to-one means of communication through a small display board. An analogous device with a large board was designed for use in a classroom of non-verbal and visually impaired students. The user controls the Remote Controlled Talking Spinner (RCTS) through a front-mounted user panel and a remote light-touch switch. The spinner of the RCTS can be moved to 2-6 different positions.  A recordable message is announced at each position.

How this project helped

According to Sue Porr, an occupational therapist at Pinehurst Elementary School who uses the spinner with a class of disabled children: “This device is used as a classroom tool to increase teaching options, learner access, and overall inclusion in the program. The project impacts in several notable areas in this classroom.  First, the switch operated board allows students who cannot physically access the board during circle time to be more participatory in circle time activities. This is a step towards more inclusion for those students.  The switches are also motivators for all students and assist in keeping their attention to the tasks presented in the class.  Finally, the device as a teaching tool will expand the methods of presenting academic material to a classroom with diverse needs.”

The RCTS (Fig’s. 1 and 2) is controlled by two Basic Stamp II microprocessors, which control the movement of the pointer as well as playback/record of messages when the pointer is at different positions. All the electronics are housed in a 8″x12″x3″ aluminum control panel mounted on the bottom front of the display board. The control panel also houses an LCD display, volume and speed controls,      and a speaker and microphone. When the cordless Big Red switch is pressed, the pointer rotates, driven by a stepper motor. A playback/record circuit announces recorded messages as the pointer pauses on each choice.  The device chimes when the user releases the switch to indicate that a selection has been made, and repeats the final choice.

The microprocessors monitor the state of the 4 user input buttons, and control the driving of the stepper motor, the speed of spinner, and the announcing and displaying of messages. The 12 VDC 2W stepper motor driver circuit uses a TTL 7406 open-collector hex inverter/buffer and four push-pull amplifier circuits. Two 10-turn potentiometers control the frequency of switching, which updates the speed of the spinner, and the volume of recorded output.

The record/playback circuit consists of an ISD2560 recording chip, an LM386 audio power amplifier and 8W speaker and a condenser microphone. The chip has a 60 second recording duration – 10 seconds for each message.

The receiver of the commercial cordless Big Red switch is mounted on the front panel of the RCTS and modified to receive power from the control box, instead of from its own batteries.

The project is powered by a 12VDC wall adapter, and consumes a maximum of 375 mA. The cost of the device is approximately $500.

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