Reinventing the Game of Chess

Shane Diller leads Bryan Lab Ambassadors to create interactive chessboard using LED, Arduino technology.

For Steward’s Bryan Innovation Lab Ambassadors, designing and creating their own chess pieces using 3D printing just wasn’t enough. They decided to create their own version of the game of chess.

The Bryan Lab Ambassadors is an application-based program in which a small group of Middle School students complete engaging projects outside of normal class time at the Bryan Lab. Originally, students wanted to build a chessboard to go with their pieces, but after reflection, they decided they didn’t want a standard board. Instead, they opted to build an interactive board that incorporates LED, microcontrollers, and coding to create a randomized game of chance for players.

The two-by-two-foot, fully functioning chessboard can be used to play a regular game of chess or the version the students created. The board features six unpainted squares that are lit from the bottom by LED lights. When activated, the colors of the lights randomly change, signifying an imaginary event that takes place, such as your chess piece “disappearing” or trading places with another piece.

Students were divided into three teams to complete the project. The design team was responsible for making sure the board adhered to the correct dimensions and creating its Plexiglass top, which involved figuring out the best method for painting the chess squares with acrylic paint. The fabrication team was responsible for building the board’s wooden frame and creating housing for the wires. The coding/electronics team was responsible for correctly programming an Arduino Mega, a microcontroller that would drive the LEDs in response to player input.

Lead Technologist of the Bryan Innovation Lab Shane Diller, who oversees the Bryan Lab Ambassadors program, said the project taught lessons in important skills such as collaboration, teamwork, communication, design thinking, coding, fabricating and building, arts, and more. He added that each team was expected to debrief with each other to share their ideas and receive feedback, further promoting the values of teamwork.

“We are passionate about not filtering students into one category, such as ‘artist’ or ‘engineer,’” he said. “This project is a great way for students to explore a variety of concepts—everyone was involved with everything, but each team had to figure out their own path. It was such an awesome display of communication and collaboration.”

Eighth-grader Landon Douglas, a member of the fabrication team, said, “We don’t always get to work with tools and wood in a normal school day, but we did for this project. It made it hands-on and fun.”

Mr. Diller said he hopes to build on the chessboard project next school year and continue to make improvements to the already stellar design and build.





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