19 December, 2011 – London, On this week’s episode of “The Ben Heck Show,” exclusively sponsored by element14, Ben receives a request from a teacher in New Jersey to create an accessible controller for a student living with Pompe disease, a neuromuscular disorder causing muscle weakness. With Ben’s mod, 13-year-old Patrick Crowley will be able to play video games requiring complex button sequences, such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Patrick and his family have blazed a trail of hope and inspiration since he and his sister were diagnosed with Pompe in March of 1998. The Princeton, New Jersey-based family have dedicated their lives to discovering newer and better treatments for the disease, including co-founding a start-up biotech company focused exclusively on developing a treatment for Pompe. The family’s remarkable battle to stay strong in the face of adversity is captured in their memoir, Chasing Miracles, and was dramatized in the 2010 motion picture, Extraordinary Measures.
“When I first decided to take on this request from a show fan, I didn’t know the Crowley family’s story and the incredible journey they’ve led to help their children and others living with Pompe disease,” said Ben. “This was an interesting project to work on from a technical perspective and I am extremely humbled by the chance to create a tool that helps Patrick enjoy one of his favorite pastimes.”
For this build, Ben creates a breakout box with eight input switches to act as the interpretation layer between the Xbox 360 controller and simplified controls. Ben first explains how the signals travel from the Xbox controller button to the game itself, then takes viewers through the necessary steps – from desoldering and relocating signal pins to rewiring connections to each signal line for easier game play.
“As demonstrated by the recently announced Innovation Series, our element14 electronics community prides itself on celebrating and enabling collaboration and innovation, especially when applied to such a wonderful cause,” said Kevin Yapp, chief marketing officer, Premier Farnell. “The Crowleys’ story is truly inspiring and we are honored to work with Ben to gift Patrick with his new controller just in time for the holidays.”
Ben wraps up the episode by programming macros, one for each button sequence, using a 16-inch x 2-inch LCD backlit display and standard Arduino library. Show fans are invited to join the element14 community to send Ben a challenge for a future build, engage with community members, and enter for a chance to win a year’s subscription to a popular DIY magazine or one of Ben’s builds featured on the show.