Welcome back to the Project Playtime blog. This week we will begin a series of team spotlights; first up, Focus on Futbol! The Focus on Futbol team includes eight dedicated and enthusiastic employees from multiple locations and groups throughout the Massachusetts area. Inspired by the mission of Project Playtime, they have come together over the last few months to implement an exciting ADI solution for individuals with disabilities.
Since Project Playtime is rooted in engaging with the community, this Massachusetts team’s first goal was to identify a partner organization that combined a focus on recreational activities with making those activities accessible to individuals with disabilities. Many Boston-area organizations do great work for this community, but Newton Athletes Unlimited (NAU) quickly rose to the top as the perfect fit for Project Playtime. Founded by parents and catering to people of all ages, NAU provides recreational programs for individuals with disabilities in the greater Newton area. They focus not only on the physical health and development of their participants, but on social, emotional, and intellectual growth to encourage independence and improve quality of life. Learn more about the organization and their impact by watching this short video.
At the Innovating with Impact Workshop kickoff event in Wilmington last November, NAU board member Betsy DiSciullo came to tell participants about the organization and the challenges they face in providing effective play for participants. One of the standout challenges was loss of focus, especially in their most popular sport, soccer. Participants often get distracted by what’s happening both on and off the field, and coaches must work to regain attention of the players as well as coach the game. From this challenge, the Focus on Futbol solution was proposed.
To facilitate focus retention for athletes during practices and games, the Focus on Futbol team is designing a soccer ball with panels that would illuminate different colors based on a custom controller with corresponding colored buttons that the coaches would operate.
Above Image: The LED soccer ball as it will perform as a finished product.
The prototype focuses on using an Arduino Uno as a microcontroller board, which sits inside a foam soccer ball and connects to a string of LEDs routed to the ends of the soccer ball. An ADI accelerometer (ADXL372) is also inside the foam soccer ball and connected to the Arduino to allow force information to capture athlete interaction with the ball. For full implementation of the prototype, the team has been in conversation with soccer ball manufacturers to determine a plan for the build once the prototype is complete.
Halved prototype showing Arduino Uno microcontroller board inside of foam soccer ball.
The main proposed functionality of the ball would include changing the ball’s color to indicate and provide instructions for players to take actions, such as blue = dribble, green = shoot, etc. Lighting up the ball for other reasons are being explored, and they could even be directly implemented by the coaches themselves for specific drills. This prototype also allows for the possibility of future educational STEM outreach in which students can learn to program the balls based on the needs of a given organization.
Currently, the team is optimizing various components of the prototype. The GUI display for the coach’s controller and a 3-D printed box to house the controller are under development as well as the software code for the RF wireless communication between the Arduino and the coach’s controller. Each of the hardware pieces of the design controlled by the Arduino have been tested out individually. The next steps of the project prototype are to fully integrate all the pieces together into the full system design.
Abby Reynolds and Laura Fegley engaging with the prototype.
Above image: LED Soccer Ball Prototype Design
Above Image: Shane Fagan enhancing the prototype.
Stay tuned to the Project Playtime for more updates and team spotlights.