Translation Toy

This toy will help children learn a new language in a fun and interactive way.

Updated for 2019 China-US Young Maker Competition

Learning a new language is difficult, but there are those that believe children around the ages of 6 or 7 are at the peak age for learning a second language (although I haven’t personally read any of the studies that suggest this. Sounds good though ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). Given this, I decided to throw together a toy that could translate anything said to it in one language and repeat it back in a second language since it seemed like a fun learning project.


I ended up starting off with a small animatronic Porg toy from Star Wars that I picked up on sale at Toys R Us back when they were closing.


It consists of three major parts that we can take advantage of:

  • a speaker
  • a front button
  • a set of motors controlled by a single ground/voltage wire combination for moving the mouth and wings

There’s also a portion with the sound controller, on/off switch and batteries screwed on to the bottom, but this project won’t require that part.

After removing the bottom cover, we can see that the wires from the base are connected to the main parts that we will want to use. I ended up just cutting these wires and soldering on extensions.

At this point I wasn’t 100% sure if the motor would work by just applying a voltage, or if the board under it was doing something more complicated with PWM, so I hooked the motor wires to 5V and ground off of an Arduino. Luckily, it worked.

Now that I knew everything worked as I was expecting, it was time to hook in the first stage of actual hardware. I decided to use a Raspberry Pi with Google’s AIY Voice Kit hat since it gave me an easy to use microphone and speaker driver using a built in MAX98357A. It’s worth noting that I’m using a V1 Voice HAT, rather than the bonnet, since I wanted to be able to connect it to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse without having to find my USB and HDMI adapters, so the pins used will reflect that.

Source: Translation Toy

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