Ben Heck Shop Visit

Recently I won a contest on Element14 where I was supposed to receive a hat from Ben Heck’s Ghost Squad episode (satire episode about ghost hunting).  If you don’t know Ben Heck, you should look up some of his videos


Ben Heck is originally known in the hacking/modding community for his portable PS3 and Xbox360 Laptops and custom controllers for disabled players.  He has been contracted by Element14 (part electronic supply company Newark) to make many of these videos.  He is a graphic artist by trade and taught himself electronics.  He does amazing things like portable CNC machines, portable workbenches, portable consoles (portability probably a good theme for him), and other neat things.  He is kind of a hero in the modding/hacking world.


Anyways, I was contacted by Element14 about the contest and I asked if he was going to sign the hat, here is my email

Is Ben signing these at all?  It would be awesome if he did.  I’d even come to pick it up as I make frequent trips to Madison.  I’m an EE and love his work, I’d hang it in my basement lab to give me inspiration to use my powers for good and not as much for corporate greed, except when I need to pay the bills, typically 8-5 daily.

Either way, thanks!


Hoping to appeal to Ben’s sarcastic fun nature.  Well it worked, I was contacted about going to his shop last Tuesday and told I could meet him.


I went to his shop where Ben and Alyson (his camera person/assistant) were finishing up a show.  I stood watching and looking around the lab (probably creepily) at all the awesome stuff there.  Just electronic components everywhere, projects here, projects there, giant CNC machine in the main room.  It was pretty awesome.  After they finished the episode, I got to talk to Ben about electronics and you can definitely tell he is passionate and knows his stuff.  He showed me some things in his shop including his 3D Printer, which I think he might turn into a laser engraver and his homemade pinball machine.  I talked about what I do for work, and he mentioned a future project he might talk to me about.


We talked for about 20 minutes before I had to go, but it was a really awesome experience and definitely motivates me to do more electronic projects on my own (I wasn’t kidding about the hat for motivation).  Here is a picture of it



For anyone interested in hacking/modding check out Hackerspaces.  These are local establishments that teach classes and have equipment to assist any hacking or modding project.

There is a good one right in Madison

Footpedal Hardware Finished

Finished my gaming foot pedal I was working on

Added the pushbutton on the side for resetting so it can be programmed without opening, and also added a light for when a button is hit.  I tried to do Sugru strain reliefs, but I tried them thinking I could shape them, pull them out of the case, and then finish the case.  Well sugru is very sticky and it didn’t work out as well as planned.  It will still keep the cord from pulling out though as each cord has a plug of sugru inside the enclosure as well bigger than the hold.  I think it looks pretty good.

On the software side I will eventually make a program that lets you change what keys are pressed, but it will just modify the c file and recompile.  Then you can hit the side button and use the teensy programming program to update the firmware.

Gaming Footpedal

I’ve been wanting a gaming footpedal for awhile.  I’ve been playing Counterstrike for many years and recently I’ve been sick of my keyboard/mouse settings for my talk and walk buttons.  When I am steadily aiming at a wall, waiting for someone to round the corner for that headshot I don’t want to hit a button on my mouse to talk to the team and tense up my hand and possibly throw off my aim.  Also, if I am in the middle of a firefight I don’t want to have to hit a keyboard button to talk because it would mess up my moving/crouching/jumping etc.  This goes the same with the walk button, but less so.


Well recently we were cleaning out upstairs at work and I found an old controller with a footpedal.  It was getting thrown out so I got my hands on it and took it a part with the purpose of using it as my walk/talk buttons.

I took it a part and the cable had five wires.


Green wire was chassis ground on the pedal, Red was the NO connection for both pedals, Blue was the NC connection for both pedals, and Yellow and Black were signal wires for the pedals.  A friend from Sector67 turned me on to Teensy boards, which are USB Atmel AVR’s, they are small and can be programmed through USB.  These are often used for HID Keyboard hacks, here is the one I am using


I stripped the foot pedal wires and connected them to the board.  I connected the NO connection to ground, and both signal wires to pins on PORTB.  PORTB is set up to internally pullup to VCC.  I then edited some sample Teensy code and tossed it on the board to press the 7 and 8 buttons on the numpad for each pedal.

(Code was lost in website upgrade, examples for HID keyboards here)

Works great, here is the semi finished product


Next steps are to add a status LED, secure the board in place, and to use Sugru to add good looking strain reliefs to the cables.


I’m also thinking of adding a pushbutton and making the controller configurable using a windows based program communicating over the USB port.  You could press the button, open up the program, and change what keys the pedals are bound to.

Sample :