Worms in Space Board Game




NASA has taken worms to the ISS on their own special capsule. There was an accident aboard the station and the worm astronauts have to navigate to the escape capsule to return to Earth. The airlock to the escape capsule has been damaged but can be reached from the other side of the ship. The human astronauts are helping their wormy comrades reach the capsule by using a series of warning lights in each quadrant of the station.

To motivate a worm, through its natural sensation of visible light, to navigate from a starting point to an intended location.

The worm starts in Quadrant 1 of the game board. The worm moves through each quadrant by incrementally triggering door switches until it reaches Quadrant 4. Quadrant 4 will be filled with some of the worm’s favorite foods, like coffee grounds or apple peels, so it can be rewarded for all of its efforts. The player is able to toggle LEDs on/off in order to motivate the worm to trigger the next door and to keep the worm from curling up in a dark corner of the game board.

Hello, our names are Eric Hamilton and Katie Staples. We made this project for our Cybiotic Interaction Design Class taught by Andrew Quitmeyer at Georgia Tech. For more information, here is the course website: http://lmc.gatech.edu/~aquitmeyer3/cybiotic/ 


Step 1: Supplies

Step 2: Planning

We began our research by using worms in combination with Disney's Touche project. We decided to simplify our project by using the natural conductivity of the worms to complete simple circuits that control servo-powered doors. We did this by using a 5v outage on the Arduino connected to a strip of copper tape with another strip nearby connected to an analog input.

Disney Touche Technology:
Touché is a new sensing technology that proposes a novel Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing technique that can not only detect a touch event, but simultaneously recognize complex configurations of the human hands and body during touch interaction. This allows to significantly enhances touch interaction in a broad range of applications, from enhancing conventional touch screens to designing interaction scenarios for unique use contexts and materials.

Step 3: Construction

Using a laser cutter and the included illustrator file, we cut the acrylic board into two levels. The base of each level is 10" x10" and they are separated by the larger 3" x 1" pieces. The piece with the center hole goes on top to allow for the mounting of the servos. The 2" x 1" pieces are used for the doors and permanent dividing walls. The side walls are the 10" x 1" pieces. The file makes a few spare parts too.

Step 4: Arduino Coding/Wiring

Step 5: Final Product

Step 6: Future Plans

Future plans for the Worm Game include reconstructing the game board to be more intricate. With more doors and more pathways, the worms will have a better sense of choice and control over where their final destination will be. We suggest eliminating any "empty space" in the game board layout because the worms tend to migrate to those areas that a dark and quiet.

Additional Ideas:
- Have two mirrored game boards with one worm in each board. The worms race through their own board while controlling their own door operations but controlling the other worm's light triggers.
- Seal the game board and pump moist air into different quadrants to see if that can help better draw the worm to the final quadrant.
- Have one game board with a maze and a separate compartment that specifically controls the LED functions. Have one worm in the maze and have another worm be in control of the LEDs.
- Make Neon Night Crawlers using Bass Pro Shop's Sure-Life Labs Worm-Glo ($15.99) and play the game in the dark. [ Note: Do not feed your worms regular food coloring. It will block their pores and kill them. ]

Step 7: Worm Care

Worm Care:
- Night Crawlers are the optimal worm breed for this project.
- High quality soil is recommended for your worm habitat.
- Water the soil/worms with a spray bottle daily. Do not pour large amounts of water straight into the worm container.
- Worms like apple peels and coffee grounds. Worms like to eat anything with bacteria.
- Do not leave worms in the sun. Direct sun exposure for more than 4 minutes can lead to extreme water loss and dehydration for the worm. This can cause hemorrhaging and/or worm death.
- Do not leave worms in Styrofoam container with the lid on for extended periods of time. If left in the box for over three days, worm liquefaction can occur (picture attached). This can also cause extreme depression in pet owners (picture also attached).

OtherWorm Facts:
- Worms cannot see infrared light.
- Worms do not like light in general. They avoid it.

Suggested Worm Environment:
PetSmart Grreat Choice Critter Tote $6.99 Item: 16624546



    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019
    • Party Challenge

      Party Challenge
    • Fandom Contest

      Fandom Contest

    10 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    That is awesome. Any classmates also sharing their final projects? We can zip those all up into a collection or ebook if you like.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I think a couple might! This is their finals week, so we'll see who gets their stuff done :) BTW I'm their instructor!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You set quite an example, then. I'll keep my eyes peeled for more awesome stuff from your class.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Love this. Reminds me of the work of James V. McConnell at the University of Michigan back in the 1960's (Try Googling "Worm Runners Digest"). He did operant conditioning of flatworms (planaria) with light and sometimes shock. I did some work with them studying pharmacology and Parkinson's Disease. Fun and interesting. Nightcrawlers are HUGE compared to planaria.


    5 years ago on Step 4

    beware the worms can revolt an take over the space staion.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is a really well documented project! Congrats on the fantastic instructable!


    5 years ago

    That looks great! Are you part of some project or did you make this for your own amusement?

    1 reply

    5 years ago

    Woah. That's intricate!