I have been working on my own GeniusHour project at the same time as my students. I have been trying to build a video game arcade console that can play all my favorite games from growing up. When we asked our students to write a reflection, I decided to do one as well. Here is a recap of my challenges, successes, and next steps.
At the beginning of the project I had a lot of difficulties getting started (see my post here). I couldn’t even manage to turn on the computer! That was really embarrassing. But I stuck with it and kept looking on forums such as Github (click here) and the Raspberry Pi subreddit (click here) and found tons of possible solutions to my problem. I tried to test each solution one at a time to narrow down and figure out exactly what was the problem. Then one night out of the blue one of the solutions worked and boom! It took me just a couple more hours and my difficulties were all in the rearview mirror. I had made a working video game console! But as you can tell from the picture above, I got it to work! (B.O.B. was not a very popular game, but for some reason was the first one I purchased for my Super Nintendo.)
A note on legality – as far as I understand it, if I use this to play a game that I have previously purchased, it’s not considered pirating. I wouldn’t want to be a bad role model to my students.
When I first started the project, I envisioned two different sides to it. First was the computer / software side, I wanted to set up the operating system and programs needed to turn a Raspberry Pi into a video game console. And second was the physical element of a video game console, I wanted to connect an actual joystick and buttons to the Pi and build a housing for the computer. I always knew that the physical housing would be very hard for me. I’m not that great at carpentry and I don’t have access to a lot of tools.
But once I finished the software side of the project, my goals changed. I realized that I wasn’t very excited about having an actual joystick and buttons. It was just lots of fun to hold a controller and play my old favorite games. And that makes sense; when I was younger I spent so much more time playing Super Nintendo with a controller and not very much time at all playing arcade machines with buttons. I realized instead that what I wanted to do next was make it easier for my computer to play multiplayer games, up to four people.
In order to do this, I fortunately have a possible solution right at my fingertips – four wireless Xbox controllers! Unfortunately it turns out that you can’t just connect them to any old machine. They will only connect with the special Microsoft Xbox RF chip board that is inside of each Xbox. But fortunately I happen to have an old broken Xbox! So my new goal moving forward is to figure out how to connect the RF board to the Raspberry Pi, which will let me use all four of the wireless Xbox controllers at the same. Unfortunately, this involves soldering, which I have never done before, so it could be much harder than I realize. But I think I can do it. Four person Super Smash Brothers, here I come!
I am most proud of how I was able to solve my initial big challenges without asking for help from any “experts”. Even though I’m sure that some of my friends could have easily shown me what the issues were that I was stuck on for so long, I felt so satisfied when it all finally clicked. The learning that I achieved felt like something I had worked really hard for; it was “mine” and I earned it.
I am also very excited that this project is something that I can always keep working on. For example, even though right now I am not interested in adding a joystick and buttons, I could do that later. The only limiting factor is my time. All I need to do is persevere and not give up. That sounds a bit odd, because I normally prefer to be able to tick things off a list and complete tasks. But this particular project is one that will always offer me an engaging challenge. How cool is that, the ability to always be able to learn something new and exciting?