Constructing a musical staircase with the ATmega32u4

A Maker by the name of Amir Segal has created a portable musical staircase for therapy sessions with autistic children using an ATmega32u4powered board.

“We decided to build a wooden frame around each step, at the end of which there is a laser source on one side, and a photosensor on the other side. The data from the sensors is gathered by the board, [which] sends key press commands to [a] laptop via USB,” Segal explained in a recent blog post.

“For this version of the stairs we used photosensors that come with a built in digital output and a sensitivity potentiometer, [allowing] for simple programming. The tricky part is aligning the laser and the photosensor. The length of the stairs is about 175cm, so a laser misalignment of one degree results in a deviation of 3cm on the sensor side.”

As such, both components are attached to an L shaped bar. One screw connects the sensor to the L bar, while another screw connects the bar to the wood frame, allowing for rotation of the sensor. In order to connect the laser source to its L bar, Segal hacked a cable clip, replacing the nail with a screw.

“The system is cheap, easy to build, and works great if setup properly,” he concluded. “[At this point], the system is not sufficiently durable. Whenever the stairs are removed to storage and then returned to the staircase, setup is required again [so] we are working on a more durable version.”

Unsurprisingly, the above-mentioned musical staircase isn’t the first floor-based platform we’ve seen powered by Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs).

In November, Jianan Li and a team of Makers designed a wireless Atmel-powered MIDI floor piano for Duke University’s Hackathon, while Sean Voisen and his team at Adobe used Atmel ATtiny84 MCUs to build the “SenseIt” platform for kids to run, jump, play and create in a world of ‘extra large’ digital experiences.

1 thought on “Constructing a musical staircase with the ATmega32u4

  1. R Oslund

    Nice to know someone is working on devices to help autistic children. This devastating medical condition is becoming a national issue that will have to be addressed with more research and funding.



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