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Ingenious joystick design to help gamers keep fit

An ingenious project designed by our engineering student (New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (Electrical)), Khanh Thanh (Hugh) Quach has been awarded second place in the New Zealand Board for Engineering Diplomas, NZDE awards.

An image of a wooden treadmill which lets you walk and game at the same time The treadmill lets you walk and game at the same time

Hugh’s design was for a gaming joystick operated by walking on treadmill to help people keep active while gaming. We spoke to Hugh about creating his prototype.

What inspired you to create the joystick? Was it one specific thing or something you had been thinking of for a while?

I am a computer gamer and I was getting unfit playing computer games. For a decade now, I have always wanted to make gaming more active. At the beginning of the year, I began making a list of what to do for my engineering project. On the list was the treadmill joystick. I chose it because it solves the problem of gamers lack of active exercise as they are sitting while playing a computer game.

Tell us about creating it – did you have a lot of trial and error or did it come together quickly?

I researched current treadmills (both manual and motorised) and they are very expensive. After extensive research I chose to make my own. This was the most difficult and time-consuming part of the project because I am not a mechanical engineer. It was a lot of trial and error but I solved every problem.  I made many trips to the hardware store and electronic store, while I was busy with other papers and didn’t complete it until the last week.

I needed a way to sense movement of the treadmill and then send it to the computer. I made a custom sensor using a microcontroller and 3 IR (infrared) optical sensor, then programmed it to sense the rate of movement for walk and run, forward and backward.

Is it something you want to keep working on?

Yes, I will continue to perfect the treadmill joystick

Tell me about winning the award – were you surprised? Has it inspired you to do more in this area?

It was fun to make and I was happy my project won an award. If every gamer uses this treadmill joystick, gamers around the world will enjoy health and fitness benefits from a more active lifestyle.

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