Is this spaceship simulator the best homemade toy ever? (Video)
Dad Jeff Highsmith built the incredible gadget for his sons
You could forgive Jeff Highsmith's sons for thinking they have the coolest dad in the world after he built them a homemade spaceship so advanced that it could rival a NASA creation.
Keen amateur inventor Jeff based his design on the Apollo spacecraft (we can't emphasise this enough - he took this project extremely seriously) and spent four months working to create the mind-blowingly detailed space simulator for his sons, Gavin and Jasper.
In this video, he narrates his process from building the simple wooden frame of the spaceship in one corner of Jasper's bedroom, to creating an intricate electronic switchboard staffed with an array of working buttons and levers.
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Already sounds like a pretty amazing toy, right? But as his description goes on, Jeff's attention to detail takes on mythical proportions.
Using a Raspberry Pi miniature computer, Jeff was able to programme the ship's lights - LEDs and repurposed Christmas tree lights - so that the boys can control them with a joystick, making them dim or brighten.
Complementing the impressive light display is a wide range of sound effects taken from NASA's own database, amplified by a bass shaker in the floor to give the intense sensation of explosions and turbo engines.
There are even hidden compartments to add extra adventure to the boys' space missions. A rear panel opens to reveal a working robotic arm, to help Jasper on his intergalactic adventures. An inside panels lifts away, letting the boys tinker with the realistic pipes and valves within.
Amazingly, pushing the right buttons can even activate a 'disaster' based on real-life problems encountered by Apollo spacecrafts, triggering the infamous 'Houston, we have a problem' recording to come over the speakers.
The brothers must work together to maintain safe levels of power and energy in the vessel (which is one way of teaching them to get along).
Jeff explains on the website for Make Magazine that he got the idea for the spacecraft after making a 'Mission Control' station for his oldest son, Gavin. Figuring the youngster could use an astronaut on the other end of the line, Jeff decided to turn his younger son into a space cadet.
A headset links Jasper to Gavin, who mans the 'Mission Control' desk that Jeff built before he started work on the spacecraft.
However, Jeff is adamant that despite the stunning detail of his elaborate homemade spacecraft, the important thing is what goes on inside it.
"I designed the spacecraft and Mission Control desk to provide open-ended play," he explains in a blog post accompanying the video. "This is not a game itself that can be won or lost, just a fancy prop for my boys to use with their own blossoming imaginations."
Jeff, whose previous inventions include a Rear-View Hair Trimmer and a Popsicle Stick Helicopter, is modest about his achievement, however.
"Alone, no single feature was all that hard to do, there just happen to be a lot of details and a fair amount of integration."
That's putting it lightly!