The Big Green Button

How to create your own high-tech celebration

Published
July 21, 2016
Reading Time
3 minutes

There are few things more satisfying than wrapping up a massive, months-long project. Back when we used to track all of IDEO New York’s work on a whiteboard in our kitchen, we’d celebrate these completed projects at our weekly meetings. Each team would walk up to the front of the room and—as the rest of the studio clapped and cheered—triumphantly erase their project from the board. It was a small thing, sure, but it was ours, and it was pretty satisfying.

Because a white board is not the most techno-nifty tracking mechanism, we created an internal tool, a digital platform that we displayed on the large Plasma TVs in the kitchen. Having a digital system allowed us to collect data to better understand how to attract, run, and build teams for projects going forward. The new system is definitely handy, but it took away something something that really unified us. After all, archiving something in a digital system is not nearly as satisfying as wiping it off the whiteboard in front of the cheering masses (or, more accurately, 25 co-workers).

When we first switched over, we wanted to create something that would give that same sense of satisfaction, and would still let us celebrate together as a studio. What could fit that description better than a massive button that you could hit to trigger a loud and enthusiastic celebration? Enter the Big Green Button.

It’s exactly what it sounds like, and it’s attached to the wall near those massive monitors we use to track projects. When a project is complete and a team member hits it, a signal is sent to the the server where the tracking system lives. The signal triggers the system to display a random animated gif, and to play about five seconds of the theme song from The Price is Right. It’s fun, it’s enthusiastic, and it prompts everyone to cheer. Plus, there’s an added element of surprise, because no one knows what the gif will be.

giphy (1)

How We Did It
The button itself is from Adafruit, and it’s huge. (Think the size of a grapefruit). The housing for the button is a 3D printed cowling that encases the button and the wiring and connects via an aesthetically pleasing audio cable. The audio cable allows us to unplug the button easily—no complex wiring to worry about.

Renderings for the 3D printed housing that encases the button and wiring.

Renderings for the 3D printed housing that encases the button and wiring.

At the other end of the cable is the brains—an Arduino with Adafruit’s ethernet shield. It receives the signal from the button, then sends out a POST request to the website’s server, which runs on IDEO’s network. Because multiple people can view the website at any given time, the user must locally “arm” the button on the AngularJS website with an option box. The option box tells the website that THIS website will respond to button presses. The Go server running the server can then route the incoming request to the large screen’s website only.

This whole setup uses only a few lines of code to add a physical layer and heightened level of excitement to our project completion ceremony—and everyone loves it.

An Arduino with a special plate allows both power and ethernet to be run from an ethernet cable. It’s very efficient when you’re making a standalone electronics box.

An Arduino with a special plate allows both power and ethernet to be run from an ethernet cable. It’s very efficient when you’re making a standalone electronics box.

A button like this is just asking to be pushed, but we added the sign to give people an extra nudge, and a hint as to what it actually does.

A button like this is just asking to be pushed, but we added the sign to give people an extra nudge, and a hint as to what it actually does.

The complete setup: The button and cable connect to the controller, which also connects the whole setup to the internal network.

The complete setup: The button and cable connect to the controller, which also connects the whole setup to the internal network.