"Hurry, Doctor!", an Arduino-Powered Operation-Style Electronic Board Game

I picked up an old Operation board game from the thrift store and my three-year old and I performed a few successful surgeries. My residency complete, the next day I visited the Dollar Tree for foil, foamcore and plastic boxes and started tinkering towards a lesson plan to build a bunch of them with my elementary school STEM students……down the rabbit hole…I had also been looking for long-term middle school project ideas for the upcoming school year. Specifically, a healthy dose of real code running an electronic device that the kids get to make mostly by themselves and take home. Something with plenty of hands-on craftsmanship using X-Acto knives, a soldering iron, nuts and bolts, foil tape, and so forth. About twenty hours later, every table in my classroom was covered in wire snippings and foamcore scraps, I had written and thrown away about 12,000 lines of code in order to have 750 that worked correctly, I had two breadboards and two prototypes within which four Arduinos blinked away, both of my whiteboards were covered in gibberish, the base of my drill press was buried in PVC shavings, and I was officially halfway done… In the classic board game, ‘Operation’, players draw a card to determine which tiny plastic object to extract and for how many dollars, then they receive that amount of money if they pull the piece out of a tight opening with a pair of tweezers…as long as they don’t accidentally brush against the metal edge. Touching the edge with the wired tweezers closes a circuit that lights up the patient’s nose bulb and vibrates the playing field with a motor under its surface, indicating a failed surgery. I figured that using an Arduino, I could maintain the basic game play but automate the scorekeeping, add simple sound effects, and enhance the game with a timer, so that players would earn more money by performing surgeries quickly.”


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