Video Games for Everybody: Designing a One-Handed Videogame Controller
Since they were introduced around fifty years ago, videogames have
slowly become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in many
societies. For much of that time, they were seen as little more than
children's toys, but as whole generations have grown up with them, the
audiences have gotten broader. More importantly, for our purposes, since
the Internet became widely available to ordinary people, video games
have been developing into not just entertainment, but the centers of
online communities, and even into competetive "sports" of a sort. What
this means is that, for some people, videogames are very important, and
it's a very big deal to lose the ability to play them because of a
physical disability. In particular, many videogames require the use of
some kind of controller, and these usually require both hands to
use. If someone loses a hand or arm, it becomes a lot harder to play
videogames with one of these controllers.
That's where you come in. In this project, you'll be designing a
one-handed videogame controller that's capable of replacing an ordinary
one, so somebody with only one hand can still participate in a game with
as little disadvantage as possible. To do so, you'll need to use
industrial design, engineering, and CAD skills, and you'll need to be
creative to meet these challenging goals.
While there are many places your class could go with this project,
the STEM Explorer is equipped to help you produce one concrete product:
a 3D-printed mockup of your game controller design, without any working
electronics inside, but with mock buttons (and switches, and joysticks,
and whatever else your controller design needs) so you can demonstrate
how it fits in a person's hand,and how good its ergonomics are. If your
school and teacher are feeling particularly ambitious, you might choose
to do more than this, for example designing a working prototype that you
can actually control a videogame with, but for this roughly five-week
project, we'll have more than enough to do simply designing and
manufacturing your mockups.
This project is designed to meet Michigan's HS-ETS1-2 and HS-ETS1-3
engineering standards, and many of ISTE's Student standards. For more
information, you can read our
and the ISTE's standards page.
You can see the rubric that your teacher will use to grade your
- We'll be using Onshape
for all of our CAD work. Onshape is a professional-grade CAD
package that runs "in the cloud", and that you control from
your browser. It is free of charge for educational users (like
- You'll also want to refer to our
Onshape tutorial videos to help you learn
how to make models. All of these videos should be useful for
your project, and you may find you need to seek out even more
learning materials to successfully build your model.
- You'll probably want to use modelling clay as part of your
design process, to test out some designs. If you don't have any,
and can't or don't want to buy any,
has some good recipes that you can follow to make your own.
- If you're a teacher, you can get more information about
from our summary presentation
and sign your class up
with our signup form.
Step by Step
- First, you'll need to watch the STEM Explorer team's
introductory lecture. We'll try to deliver one live, either in
person or over videoconference, but if we can't make that work
you can watch our
- Next, you'll want to follow along with our
Onshape tutorial so you learn the CAD
basics you'll need to model your design. Your project, in
particular, will require some relatively fancy modelling, so
watching all of the videos will be very important.
- Once you understand how to use Onshape, your next step
should be to not use Onshape yet. (That's disappointing, isn't
it?) You should do some brainstorming of your design before you
even start trying to model it in Onshape, so you know what you
need to build. You should make 2D design sketches with a pencil
and paper at a minimum, and you'll probably find it very helpful
to create — and measure! — 3D mockups with something
like modelling clay, so you can get an idea of how your design
will feel in your hand before you build it. Your teacher will
probably want to collect your 2D sketches as an assignment.
- When you have a good idea of what your design should look
like, it's finally time to get down to the business of modelling
it in Onshape. You'll have what may be the most challenging
modelling task of all of our high school CAD projects, but
you'll also have your teammates to collaborate with, and the
STEM Explorer team will be available to assist you. This part
might take as long as two weeks to finish.
- When your Onshape designs are all done, you'll need
to share them with the STEM Explorer team, who will use the
STEM Explorer's 3D printers to turn them into real, physical
mockups. This process will probably take another two weeks,
because 3D printers are slow, and the STEM Explorer's printers
in particular will probably be very busy. When they're all done,
we'll mail them to your school, and you'll test them out to see
how easy they are to use.
- Finally, your team will prepare a presentation about your
design and deliver it to your classmates. When you're all done,
your class will decide on one project to submit to the STEM
Explorer team for inclusion in the STEM Explorer Engineering
Hall Of Fame website.