As you may have read in a recent post, I am exploring ideas to help J participate more fully in Challenger Baseball games by modifying a switch adapted pitching machine to help J throw the ball while fielding. That project of mine received some attention from another parent who was looking for a way to help their child play fetch with their service dog. Their child happens to have Cerebral Palsy, happens to use a wheelchair, and happens to need a little help throwing the ball. A very similar situation to my desire to help J participate in the fielding half of the inning during baseball games.
This family had purchased one of those remote controlled automated dog ball launchers. You press a button on a remote and the machine launches a ball for the dog to chase. The dog fetches the ball and can drop it into the hopper. You press the button on the remote and repeat until your dog is exhausted.
They had hoped that they could find a way to rewire the remote to place a switch port in parallel with the button. Unfortunately, the remote is sealed up really tight and the information they got about the remote makes them feel the rewiring is a little beyond their electronics experience (sounds like the remote is solid state with flush mount components).
I intended to do a bit more research into the project (especially since it would be a possible solution for J as well). Unfortunately, life happened and I did not make any further progress on my research. That is until last night when AT Mom brought me home a copy of Make magazine. (This is a GREAT magazine for anyone looking for inspiration for hacking together DIY AT projects at home. They do not specifically do AT projects, but many of their projects are fun or life simplifying, and they do a great job on step by step instructions.)
This specific issue of Make magazine had a cover story that caught my eye (it was the reason AT Mom brought it home for me in the first place): “Fetch-O-Matic: Build This Awesome Do Ball Launcher”. It was an article written by Dean Segovis (who blogs at Hack A Week) that detailed his own DIY automatic dog ball launcher.
The project is not switch activated as detailed in the article; however, I could easily see adding a switch port either in place of the micro switch triggered by the ball weight, or in series with that switch. That would create a solution where the dog’s fetch partner would press and hold their switch throughout the throwing mechanism’s motion to throw a ball. With a little extra circuitry a design could allow for a single switch press to activate the throwing motion.
If I get the chance to play with this design, I will definitely be adding a post or two here about the build and the results. If you are interested in seeing me attempt a switch adapted version of Dean’s design, let me know in the comments section. If I get enough comments, it could influence where I prioritize this project.