Week 1: Final Project Sketch

The Problem / Idea

Sports is becoming a bigger and bigger part of children’s early years.  No longer do children play multiple sports throughout the year.  Instead, students sign up for a single sport club team that play 12 months.  Bottom line: parents and kids are becoming more and more fanatical about sports and they are always looking for ways to enhance their child’s learning and ability to practice, which typically manifests itself in the parents buying lots of gear for their back yard.  Two examples of items parents purchase include the throwback/pitch-back, a way for students to repeatedly throw a ball against a wall, and a goal (oftentimes with a front cover to help with aim).

Simple bounce back:
Goal with cover for accuracy practice

The idea is to combine these concepts and to build it for multiple sports.  This idea largely comes from the fact that I work at a middle school and I know how much each of the students and coaches could benefit from something like this. I also know the children would love it. 

Key Requirements

    1. It needs to be light and easy to carry (aka not too bulky)
    2. It needs to be battery powered so it can be carried out to a field
    1. The user needs to see how hard their shot was (in the perfect world it would give MPH), and
    2. The user need to see whether their shot hit the target (or got close to the target).

Big Questions / Concerns

  1. Should you be able to put the pitch-back in portrait and landscape mode?  Does it need to bounce the ball back or will that be too hard to do for multiple sports.  It could just record the hit and score the shot. 
  2. How will I do the sensors to measure force?  Some ideas I've considered include...
  3. How will feedback be provided.  Here are some ideas...
  4. Sound? Should there be sound feedback?  I was thinking it would be good to have a timing concept where kids could see how many shots they can get off in 10 seconds and that that could then give them a score.  
  5. How much power will this need?  That will likely depend on how much visual feedback I give.  For example, a scrolling LED will need a fair amount of power, but a few LEDs won't need much.

Steps to use


Here are the files that were used to mock this up:

Parts to be made...

I am thinking of breaking this down into separate parts to make.  Given the order of the classes and topics, I am thinking of making the following parts in the following order...

Control Panel

The pitchback will need way to set the sport and the difficulty level. This will involve both input and output mechanisms.  This back panel will be used by the coach or user to set the sport and the level of difficulty.  The sport will determine what parts of the board are lit up.  For example, lacrosse will light all possible target LEDs.  The Control Panel will look like this:
Pitchback Control

Athlete Feedback System

1) Before the athlete shoots the ball, I am going to have to give them a target.  I am thinking that this could be as simple as having a bright red LED appear behind the target surface.  This would give the person something to aim at.

2) Then, after a shot, I am going to want to give them feedback on how they did.  There will be two types of feedback given:
- Accuracy: Did the shooter hit (or get close) to the target area,
- Speed: How hard did the student shoot

Ultimately, I would love to have some kind of scoring mechanism so that the kids could have fun competing.  Whenever I've coached and brought out something like a speed gun to measure shot speed, kids love it (and they always try to beat one another)

NOTE: One thing that's interesting about this, is that the student's shots and the ball/puck can't hurt the feedback system.

Bounce Back Surface / Target Area

This is the surface that absorbs the ball/puck that's shot and measures the accuracy and force of the shot.   It is going to be critical that this is sturdy. 

Steps Need to Take

I have been trying to think about how to break all this down.  The greatest risk is going to come from having a good design on the target area.  If I can't find a way to light up the target and then to measure if/when someone hits it (and how hard they hit it), then this entire project won't work.  So I think I need to focus on that first. 

So...here's how I am thinking this will hopefully all play out.  For the weeks I don't have something listed, I will be doing different, unrelated projects (unless I can find a way to make progress on the final project). 

Week 8:
Embedded Programming

Build the Control Panel with LCD/KeyPad to accept data entry and resetting.
Week 9:
Molding and Casting

Attempt to build single square target areas ("target cell" that can...1) hold a red LED light at the center and 2) a pressure sensor for measuring impact.  I am thinking the backboard will be made of many of these squares.  They will be like pixels on a screen so when get hit we will know they've been pressed. 
Week 10:
Input Devices

For this step I am planning on getting the pressure sensor to handle getting hit and measuring the force which which it was hit.  This sensor will have to fit into the mold that built in prior week in such a way that it can be accurate.
Week 11:

I am thinking this could be where I build the part of the backstop where all the individual "target cells" get put together. 
Week 12:
interface and application programming

This is where things need to come together where I attach the control panel to a few of the "target cells".  If this goes well, then by the end of this I will have a handful of cells that will light up based on which sport someone chooses, and then when press one of the target cells it will either score a successful hit or not.  It should also register the pressure put on the target cell. 
Week 14:
Output Devices

At this point I am going to have to find a way to provide better feedback to the user.  In the early stages I will be able to use the LCD on the control panel, but that won't work for the final product.  So at this point I will need to experiment with some kind of scolling LCD panel or some big numbers/LEDs. 
Week 16:
Applications and implications
At this point I will need to build out the plan to pull all this together.  I should have most of the major issues figured out by now, but I will need to get it all into one consolidated frame and it will all need to attach. 

Updates and Changes

Tonight the Providence Lab team review everyone's ideas for projects.  I got some great feedback.  I am realizing I should really simplify this.  To that end, I am thinking of making the following changes to my design...
1) I will initially focus on one sport: lacrosse. 
2) I am not going to worry as much about a complicated feedback system for the players
3) I am not going to worry as much about the weight. 

Other ideas that people had...
- One way to show feedback to the shooters will be to have an LED strip that can be like the carnival game where the lights will go really high if someone shoots hard and they won't go very high if someone shoots softly.
- Consider using a few other kinds of sensors and fabrics. 


Possible Parts List

LED Strips
SURE Electronics: White waterproof LED strip (could use for cool illumination of where ball hit)

SURE Electronics: Single RGB LED (for indicating targets / where to aim)
Adafruit Velostat Sheets

Adafruit Square Force Sensitive Resistor