Using similar technology of my electronic LEGO Super Mario power-ups from fall 2014, these new 3-D sprites actually play polyphonic music using a new Arduino code! This new code was written for converting MIDI files into binary code – and then being split among multiple AVR timers for three sound channels. The code is known as Miditones, created originally by Len Shustek. Len’s code generates binary music from MIDI files, so the particular song I’ve chosen was the Fortress theme from Super Mario Bros. 3, naturally (composed by Koji Kondo), and any song can be used.

Along with the music, the eye blinks with a flickering red LED. I wanted to use a standard LED to blink in synch with the music, but alas I wasn’t able to achieve this due to the ATmega’s timers being occupied with the musical score. Unlike my previous power-ups, the Dry Bones model uses four AAA batteries along with an ATmega328p, rather than two coin cells and an ATtiny85. The construction for this project was pretty straightforward, as I used the same LEGO engineering as the previous Mario power-ups, only with a different, more elaborate design. I constructed the LEGO frames first with the intention of using the same speakers, batteries, and circuits as the previous Mario power-ups, but unfortunately when I was unable to use an ATtiny85 and coin cells for the desired Arduino code, I had to upgrade to the larger ATmega328 along with the barebones Arduino on a breadboard circuit. This new setup required 5.5VDC to power — along with an 8 ohm speaker, rather than a tiny piezo transducer. When I made the upgrades with electronics, I had to hollow out the innards of the Dry Bones structure in order to securely house the new manifold of wires and components.

During the photo and video shoot — like the DL-44 Blaster — some of the electronic components malfunctioned. I had to troubleshoot and soon discovered that it was the female header pins for holding the resistors to the speakers: the resistors were coming loose, due to the header pins being shoddy, and the resistors being very thin. I dislike permanently soldering components into my circuits, so that I can swap out faulty parts and make easy replacements. When I build circuits, only the header pins, terminal blocks, circuit paths, and IC sockets are permanently attached: this is so that I can remove/insert new resistors, capacitors, LEDs, speakers, and/or switches in the event of a damaged piece. After I made the repairs by using larger, thicker resistors, I sealed up the innards of the model, did a quick shock test for durability, and went ahead with recording the YouTube demonstration.

These models shall be for sale at A Video Game Con in Northern New Jersey this September!


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