Beating the memory game Simon is not an easy feat, but a tech-savvy dad and his daughter managed to crack the code.
The process took a whole year, but engineer Ben North and his 7-year-old daughter built a robot that beat the game. (For those who don't know, Simon is a hand-held electronic game that tests memory with light sequences.) North told Yahoo! that when they played the memory-buster, they didn't do too well. That's when North suggested to his daughter that technology could help them.
"My daughter was excited by this idea, and we do often make and experiment with things, so we decided we’d give it a go," dad said.
They collected materials, such as LEGOs, rubber bands, batteries, wire and sensors, to put the project together. The LEGOs turned into "fingers" to press the buttons of the game as they lit up, and the rubber bands, batteries and wires helped power them. North explained the process in further detail on his blog: "We therefore had a robot which played Simon, but only if a human used a laptop to tell it which colors were flashing."
Nervous that his daughter had grown bored of the project a few months in, North suggested that this point would be a fine place to stop. But she wanted to go on. She wanted to get the sensors going so the robot could work independent of human input. So dad obliged, and after installing sensors, they wrote a code to signal to the arms what color to press.
Tech blog Hackday, who first discovered the Norths' project, further explained how the sensors worked:
To detect Simon’s lights, [Ben] connected four phototransistors to an Arduino. The Arduino records the pattern of lights on the Simon, and activates the Lego arms in response to that pattern. [Ben]‘s version of Simon has only a maximum of 32 steps in the final sequence, but that still means each game takes 528 button presses – and a lot of annoying beeps -- to complete.
Dad made a video, which you can watch above, that explains how their invention works. He told Yahoo! that his daughter helped from start to finish -- from wire cutting to drilling to the design of it all. Considering that teachers spend 43 percent more time on boys than girls in a science classroom setting, involving and encouraging his daughter's interest will continue to help her stay confident in her STEM abilities.
"She stuck with it until we’d succeeded,” North said. “I’m proud of her for that.”