Patrick Crowley
Benjamin J. Heckendorn is no stranger to game pads designed for people with disabilities, but the macro controller he just whipped up for Patrick Crowley (pictured above) might be his most impressive accessibility hack yet. On the latest episode of his show the modding extraordinaire crafts a breakout box that allows a complex set of commands to be triggered with just the touch of a button or foot switch. The box at the heart of the project is powered by a PIC microcontroller that takes inputs from a series of modular switches (up to eight) and turns them into virtual button presses that are fed to an Xbox 360 through a standard controller. In addition to being able to swap in eight different inputs, each one can be programmed to perform a different macro. We won't ruin all of the fun -- check out the PR and full episode in the source link to watch everything from Ben Heck's holiday epiphany through the final testing.
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element14 and Ben Heck celebrate the spirit of giving with accessibility Xbox controller mod on latest episode of "The Ben Heck Show"

Ben honors the request of a show fan to create controller mod for 13-year old boy with Pompe Disease

CHICAGO – Dec. 19, 2011 – On this week's episode of "The Ben Heck Show," exclusively sponsored by element14, Ben receives a request from a teacher in New Jersey to create an accessible controller for a student living with Pompe disease, a neuromuscular disorder causing muscle weakness. With Ben's mod, 13-year-old Patrick Crowley will be able to play video games requiring complex button sequences, such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine™.

Patrick and his family have blazed a trail of hope and inspiration since he and his sister were diagnosed with Pompe in March of 1998. The Princeton, New Jersey-based family have dedicated their lives to discovering newer and better treatments for the disease, including co-founding a start-up biotech company focused exclusively on developing a treatment for Pompe. The family's remarkable battle to stay strong in the face of adversity is captured in their memoir, Chasing Miracles, and was dramatized in the 2010 motion picture, Extraordinary Measures.

"When I first decided to take on this request from a show fan, I didn't know the Crowley family's story and the incredible journey they've led to help their children and others living with Pompe disease," said Ben. "This was an interesting project to work on from a technical perspective and I am extremely humbled by the chance to create a tool that helps Patrick enjoy one of his favorite pastimes."

For this build, Ben creates a breakout box with eight input switches to act as the interpretation layer between the Xbox 360™ controller and simplified controls. Ben first explains how the signals travel from the Xbox controller button to the game itself, then takes viewers through the necessary steps – from desoldering and relocating signal pins to rewiring connections to each signal line for easier game play.

"As demonstrated by the recently announced Innovation Series, our element14 electronics community prides itself on celebrating and enabling collaboration and innovation, especially when applied to such a wonderful cause," said Kevin Yapp, chief marketing officer, Premier Farnell. "The Crowley's story is truly inspiring and we are honored to work with Ben to gift Patrick with his new controller just in time for the holidays."

Ben wraps up the episode by programming macros, one for each button sequence, using a 16-inch x 2-inch LCD backlit display and standard Arduino library. Show fans are invited to join the element14 community to send Ben a challenge for a future build, engage with community members, and enter for a chance to win a year's subscription to a popular DIY magazine or one of Ben's builds featured on the show.

About "The Ben Heck Show"

"The Ben Heck Show" is a bi-weekly online television series aired in English that's dedicated to the science and art of system and hardware modding with a global audience of design engineers, students and electronic enthusiasts. Now in its second year, the show has already attracted more than 3 million views. Sponsored exclusively by element14, each episode spotlights Ben's mods of popular electronic devices while educating viewers on the underlying technology powering each project.

About element14

element14 is a high-service distributor of technology products and solutions for electronic system design, maintenance and repair. It brings together the latest products, services, and development software, all connected to an innovative online engineering community where purchasers and engineers can access peers and experts, a wide range of independent technical information and helpful tools. When researching a new technology, designing an electronic product, or looking for parts to repair an existing system, they can rely on element14 to find the answers and parts they need to keep projects on the fast track, right from the start.