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Space Race – A Printed Electronic Board Game

The idea: An interactive, printed-electronic, trivia-style board game that will test the knowledge of all players.

The motivation: Utilizing printed electronic technologies to create a unique board game that is appealing to several age brackets, allows for the possibility of team play, and entertains while it goes. The board game also has the added challenge of playing against the computer. Incorporating the computer into the game brings in the unique aspect that not many board games in the market today contain. Players have the opportunity to win, but the added suspense is: everyone can lose.

The goal: Create “Space Race”, the first of its kind board game created entirely by students.

The game: For our game board there will be four different factions, or races, that desire a technology that is located on a new planet. By answering different trivia questions correctly the factions have the ability to get closer and closer to the planet by lighting up an advancing LED light. However, in this game players are also competing against the computer, who has a ring of LEDs surrounding it. If every faction answers the question incorrectly, then the computer will slowly start to ‘die.’ If the players answer too many questions incorrectly then everyone loses and the planet explodes.

Check out our demonstration here: Space Race Board Demonstration


Phase I: The Concept

In the beginning phases, establishment of how exactly the game was to be played had to be determined. Within the Rules group, the exact process was mapped out in an easy to read flowchart. The theme, in the meantime, was decided by a group vote: a race in space.

The original design of the board was also created, but this design was used only as a placeholder to get a feel for the final board layout. The method for players to scan their answers, as well as how trivia were to be presented were questions that had to be answered. We also had yet to determine the sizing of the central housing unit. We determined that in order to finish this project in a timely manner, Work Packages had to be created, making Design, Rules, and Documentation necessary groups.

Original concept for the board design with LED paths

Original concept for the board design with LED paths

Phase II: New Working Groups

The final background of the board was decided. We explained the rules of the game to the Vienna engineers and left them up to deciding how the program would be programmed. We were directed to create a project description that would potentially gain the interest of sponsoring parties. The topics of questions were decided, and thus a need for further specifications in job duties was created: Workpackages II. This included groups that would work on the answer cards, the question cards, design elements, set up of the board, USB assimilation on the board, 3D printed object creation, board layout, and technical documentation.

The question of how players would register their answers was an important factor. The Answer Cards group, comprised of Ross and Karin, along with the engineers from Vienna, determined that using a photoreceptor to register different answers with different colors would be an interesting solution to the question. The Question Cards group, of Sinan and Lisa, were in charge of utilizing NFC technology to the central housing unit so that questions could be registered to the computer.

3D object printer

3D printer

Screen for the path of the currents for the LEDs

Screen for the path of the currents for the LEDs

Phase III: Evolution of the Board

Things were rapidly coming together. The design of the board was finalized, the 3D printed central housing was projected. We were coming along with the task of creating 200 questions for the game, and the question cards were being developed. The photoreceptors were in experimental stages.

3D printed ships and version 1 of the computer housing

3D printed ships and version 1 of the computer housing

Experimental phase of the photoreceptors and voltage readings

Phase IV: 

The updates were endless:

Project Description had finished the paper and was currently working on the coming up with 200 game questions. The 3D Objects group was designing and redesigning ships as well as testing voltage readings, and deciding on a thinner platform for central computer housing.

Answer Cards were redesigning cards after running into some issues with voltage, printing cards on thicker substrate and laminating, and testing these new cards on the old test box. Fitting LED and sensor inside of the ship, deciding which colors to use. A USB port was purchased for the battery. The Question Cards group had materials chosen: two 160 gram papers double-sided tape with the NFC chip in the middle and laminated at a sizing of: 65 x 65mm 14pt font.

The Setup group had to redesign silver lines to coordinate with updated board layout, they had to make new screens for these new paths and change the program for Pick & Place for LEDs. Their goals were to test this new layout with the updated board layout.

Anja Mittler, our resident practical design expert developed logos and ships for each alien race.

Logos and inspirations for each alien species

Logos and inspirations for each alien species

Phase V: Becoming a Space Race

Both groups worked tirelessly on the programming and physical as well as technical design side of this board game. Minus a few hiccups and issues, the board was a success. With the question cards finished and the central housing unit stuffed to the brim with equipment, we were well on our way to creating a working board game.

The question cards for Space Race in their packaging

The question cards for Space Race in their packaging

Central Housing Unit with micro controller and other equipment inside

Central Housing Unit with micro controller and other equipment inside

Brought to you by:

The students from Munich, Vienna, and USA

The professors and students from Munich, Vienna, and USA