Jedi Force Trainer Teardown

Meet the Jedi Knight’s Force Trainer, from Uncle Milton: http://unclemilton.com/star_wars_science/#/the_force_trainer/
I have been working with a friend of mine on trying to find a way for his wife, who has ALS and is paralyzed, to communicate better. He has one of the Force Trainer toys, and his wife has had some success in using this. My friend sent me one of the devices, and I decided to document my work on interfacing this to a computer or a microcontroller.  He found a site where a guy named Zibri gave a lot of info about interfacing the Force Trainer ((http://www.zibri.org/2009/09/success.html.)  This has been a huge help in converting this “toy” into a useful “handicapped communication tool.”
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Step I – First, I took the bottom off. There are four tiny screws (no. 1, Philips head) holding the bottom to the case. After taking this off, the two sides of the plastic body needed to be pried apart. The two arms of the body did not come apart without breaking the plastic inside. Once apart, the device looked like this:
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Step II – Next, I completed removing the plastic body of the base unit.

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Step III – This is a shot of the 2×6 male header, where we will tap into the serial data stream (http://www.zibri.org/2009/09/success.html.) I will probably be sending this to a microcontroller (most likely a Propeller, since Jason – my friend – already has some of these,) and then on to a PC for experimenting.

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Step IV – Here I show how the device still works, after being disassembled:

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Step V – Below, you can see the LEDs much better – although the rest of the picture is pretty bad, sorry.

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Step VI – Here, I have disconnected the LED panel – still working properly (in other words, Yoda still gives his speil when I power the unit up):

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Step VII – Next, I removed the power button PCB, here you can see that PCB.  The instructions indicate that the potentiometer is used to calibrate the air flow; since we will not be using the fan, we should be able to do without the pot.

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Step VIII – Even with the other components disconnected, I was able to power the system up.  By following the traces on the PCB, I was able to determine that the pushbutton switch was connected to the (on my system, be careful about those) blue and yellow wires. By using a shorting plug to connect the blue and yellow wires on the connector, the system powered up and I heard Yoda’s introduction through the speaker.

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Step IX – Next, I unplugged the fan assembly and then, again, powered up the system to make sure that it does not depend on the other circuits.  Yep, it still works, without them.

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Step X – Since this may be incorporated into another product, I wanted to check the power requirements.  As you can see, my voltmeter is showing 8.28VDC – no troubles there.  Plus, as a bonus, with the fan removed, the battery (6 AA cells) will last much longer than the original system.

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Step XI – Next, just to make the thing a bit more portable, I removed the speaker from the bottom of the base station.  Then I was able to place the main PCB onto the speaker mount on the base, and tighten it down with the two brackets which were used to hold the speaker in place.

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Step XII – Here is a close-up of the main PCB mounted into the speaker mount.  You can see the curved bracket holding the PCB in place.  The other bracket had to be broken a bit to fit onto the board, but this jury-rigging does hold the PCB nice and tight.

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Step XIII – Here is another picture which shows the one bracket a little more clearly.

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Well, this is the tear down.  Next, we will build the connector for the serial port, and plug it into the microcontroller.  A simple repeater program on the microcontroller will send the data, from the Force Trainer PCB, on to a PC for initial analysis.