Building the Enterprise computer – TOS Enterprise post 2

Hello all!

I’ve had a fun weekend getting to know my Arduino MKR Zero board. Thanks to an example script from a fellow Star Trek modeller (thanks Greg!), I’ve been able to get some LEDs animating on a breadboard.

Red and green navigation beacons, white strobing lights and a fading yellow LED.

With the Arduino editor now up and running, and with my new understanding of what Sketches are, it’s time to plan the electronic features of this build. I’m going to break down the build into “modes,” which I will want to switch between at will. More on that later.

For reference, I’ll be watching and screen capping The Original Series on Netflix, studying the timings and positions of all the lights. ( has a vast amount of sound clips from the franchise, so that’ll be my library to download sound effects and quotes.

Normal mode

This will be the standard mode when the model turns on. At activation, the lights will slowly light up as the ship is powering on. Perhaps I’ll use a truncated version of this powerup sound?

A very truncated version.

These are the areas that will be lit:

  • Bussard collectors: these are the tips of the nacelles and probably the most prominent lights on the ship. Basing the animation off the GIF below, these will have multiple colour LEDs in a circular arrangement that will simply flash, and I’ll have spinning fan blades in front of them to mimic the effect as closely as possible.
  • The bridge. I’ve ordered a photo-etch kit in order to add a miniature bridge to the model, which will be seen through some windows at the top of the saucer section.
  • Ship windows. This Revell kit has all the windows pre-drilled, which makes them a lot neater than my drilling efforts on the NX-01. The majority of the windows will be white, but some of them will alternate yellow just to give them some life.
Great shot of the bussard collectors and windows. The nacelles are dark, but I’ll have a toggle-able blue light in them.
  • The shuttlebay. Another photo-etch which will have the observation bay lit.
  • Impulse engines. These will glow the appropriate colour, but I’ll keep it dim – most of the time.

In terms of audio, I will have a background hum from the Original Series bridge. It’s an awesome sound!

Full Impulse!

Then I want to do something interesting with the impulse engine. At random intervals, I want it to feel as if the ship is boosting power to engines and moving off. TrekCore has a number of TOS Engineering sound clips which are the same effect but at various intensities. I think I’ll play around with cycling them at intervals and see what effects I can get.

Red and Yellow alerts

? Klingons on the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow. Clean ’em off, Jim! ?

Things get intense when Kirk calls for red alert. The lights dim and turn red, weapons come online and you know sh*t’s going down! I want to have full red and yellow alert states. In each I’ll add some appropriate colour lighting to the bridge and windows, and some sound effects too.

The least annoying TOS Red Alert sound, I think. Suitably dramatic.

When on Red Alert, I want some battle action taking place. TrekCore has some battle sounds, and I specifically want to add phaser and torpedo sounds – where you hear Kirk give the order, hear the appropriate weapon fire and see an LED at the weapon port flashing as it does in the show.

The Original Series wasn’t very consistent with the phasers and torpedoes, however, and while the remaster went some way to clearing up some issues, I want to take the photon torpedo launcher visual effect from the early movies, which is a kind of wind-up burst, and bring that to this model.

I’m also going to look into some kind of safe, low power blue laser light for the phasers. No idea if these even exist, how they work or if I could add them, but that’s going to be fun to look into.

Torpedo launcher screenshot, courtesy of Memory Alpha. It’s going to be difficult fitting the LEDs in front of the white dome LED without them conflicting.

Funky Stuff

I grew up on 90s Trek. This means my favourite Trek ships all have blue glowing nacelles. While the Enterprise doesn’t have it in any TOS episodes, I’ve seen concepts with it, plus the awesome design in Discovery, and I want to add it to my model. It will be optional, so I can turn it on and off at will. For this, I’m going to drill out the grill from the model and have some blue LEDs behind. It won’t be as blatant as Discovery, instead, it should glow quite subtly.

Discovery's reveal of the U.S.S. Enterprise
Other than the shorter stature of the ship, I really, really like the Discovery Enterprise. I may do a kit of this when they release it.

For audio, there are a LOT of sound clips I’d like to add. I’ve equipped my Arduino with an 8GB micro-SD card, so I have plenty of space. I’m going to be finding funny, cool phrases from various episodes to add in. I may even add every variation of “He’s dead, Jim” and the Enterprise computer and have them play at different points.

I’ve never worked with audio hardware before, so this is very exciting. The MKR Zero can handle audio output, but I need to find an amplifier and a speaker. I’ve had some recommendations from a colleague so I’m looking at a LM386 amplifier chip and an 8-ohm speaker.

I’ve already pulled two sound files and converted them to the correct WAV format in order to test them when I get the audio gear.

Scotty, I need power

When I was a teen I owned a Bandai snap-together Enterprise-E. It is one of my favourite designs, but I hated that the lights only worked when it was on the stand (and that wasn’t particularly reliable either). It may be a model, but I still want to fly it around the room ordering Warp 9 with the lights turned on.

When I built the NX-01 I was determined then to have it light up in the hand. No stand, and no external wires. I bought a lithium polymer battery, a board that could handle both charging and output and then connected that to my homemade circuit board via a switch on the secondary hull, painted to blend in as well as possible.

NX-01 refit switch placement
I was going to put it on the top of the secondary hull behind the neck, but it just wouldn’t fit internally.

Adding the Arduino complicates things…

This time though, because I’m adding a micro computer, I need to learn how to turn that on and off. Since there is only one connection from the battery to the actual circuit this time, I can’t simply put a switch between them to turn off the model without also turning off the battery charging. This is a conundrum I’ve yet to solve, although one solution would be to use the same charge board as my NX and not charge through the Arduino. Any thoughts on this problem would be appreciated!

As for the charge port itself, on my NX I cut out a section of the rear worker bee bay on the saucer and hid it there, using the facia piece to mostly hide the port.

NX-01 refit charge port
OK, in pictures the finish looks messier than it does in person. Need to fix that!

It’s an OK compromise, but with the 1701 I want to do better: I want to see if I can wirelessly charge the model. My plan is to put a Qi receiver pad somewhere in the model and a transmitter either on the stand or just separate and then place it on the model when required. No idea if I can find good matching places for them, but I’ve ordered a pair of cheap Qi devices from AliExpress to test the concept out.

Commanding the Enterprise

Now for the actual control. Since I don’t want switches and buttons all over the hull, but I do want to toggle modes, I need another way of controlling it. I’ve ordered a Bluetooth board that should allow me to trigger different commands on the Arduino from my phone. Like a lot of this project, I’m in uncharted space here, but I’m hopeful. I have some experience programming video games, so I think if it’s possible, I’ll be able to do it.

Bitten off more than I can chew?

This is going to be a big project. I’m definitely pushing myself with the hardware, playing around with audio and motors that I’ve never tried before. That’s not even talking about the painting and the fact that I suck at decals! But I’m optimistic, and I’m itching to get on with it. My next step is to get the Bluetooth board working and figure out the power on and off switch.

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