Timed button pressing device

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Timed button pressing device

Postby delooper » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:10 am UTC

Greetings folks,

I work in one of these newfangled "green buildings". One of the features of this building is that after regular hours, all the lights in the building go out automatically. You can turn the lights on for ten minutes at a time, but only if you walk down the hall and press a button. Seeing as I frequently work late and find these ten-minute distractions annoying, I was thinking about building a device that I could stick on top of the button that would automatically press the button every nine minutes or so.

But then I thought, other people out there probably have the same problem, why not just get somebody else's design.

Have any of you fine XKCD admirers made such a device? Are there suitable commercial products out there or will I have to build one on my own? I think I could make one out of an electronic timer, a suitable battery and a servo...

Or maybe I should just shortcircuit the switch as it appears easy-enough to open. But that requires tampering with the switch, which if the wrong people were in the building would be perceived as a no-no. I suppose it would be okay to tamper with the switch as long as it wasn't apparent externally. For example, maybe installing a "Reed switch" (magnetic field activated switch) behind the button's panel. So the button would work and look normally, but if you put a magnet on the button panel it would trigger the Reed switch, and effectively keep the button depressed until you removed the magnet. This would have the advantage that anyone could start this mechanism with something as simple as a kitchen magnet.

Curious for your insights!
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Re: Timed button pressing device

Postby Sero » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:10 pm UTC

Well, first, a check: Have you correctly identified the problem?

From what you say, it at least sounds like all you need to do is keep the button depressed, rather than actually push it once every ~ten minutes.

So my question is, is there a reason it wouldn't be practical to lock the switch in a depressed state? Duct tape something in place to keep it held down, or something?
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Re: Timed button pressing device

Postby delooper » Fri Jan 20, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

I suppose there's no harm in trying that. I didn't think that would work... mostly because I hadn't tried keeping the button down to see if it would work over two "off" cycles. Tape alone won't have enough leverage but something like a ruler taped down over the button might do the job just fine... Thanks, might as well give the simplest idea a try first!
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Re: Timed button pressing device

Postby theorigamist » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:13 pm UTC

might as well give the simplest idea a try first!

Speaking of which, have you thought about simply contacting an office administrator to simply leave the lights on while you're still there? That seems like the simplest idea.
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Re: Timed button pressing device

Postby delooper » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:20 pm UTC

theorigamist wrote:
might as well give the simplest idea a try first!

Speaking of which, have you thought about simply contacting an office administrator to simply leave the lights on while you're still there? That seems like the simplest idea.


I work at a pretty rigid organization. We have "high efficiency toilets" to conserve water, but the optic triggers on them cause the toilet to flush 6 times before you've completed using it. The toilet gets especially excited by vertically striped shirts. And if you leave the toilet seat up (heaven forbid!) the toilet will flush once every 10 seconds until the seat is put back down. No amount of contacting the building administrator has helped. We're eco-friendly in brand-name only.
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Re: Timed button pressing device

Postby EvanED » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:17 pm UTC

Another simple idea: bring in a floor lamp.
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Re: Timed button pressing device

Postby delooper » Sat Jan 21, 2012 12:36 am UTC

EvanED wrote:Another simple idea: bring in a floor lamp.


That could solve two problems. Because after-hours the heat gets turned down. I have a 2000W work-lamp at home which turns night time into high noon on a clear day... It kind of misses the point of trying to be eco-friendly, though.
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