Pete Dearing is undoubtedly winning the maker dad of the year award for the interactive cockpit in these spaceship bunk beds.

He’d noticed how much his kids adored buttons; “Elevators, remote controls, mobile phones, they just loved them,” he says. He first made a basic control panel out of some switches and buttons mounted on top of an old toolbox with a power source inside. The boys kept asking him to add more buttons. So, Dearing decided to build something more permanent. With no real experience in electronics or woodwork, Dearing sought inspiration online, and purchased plans for a rocket ship bunk bed.

Photos by Pete Dearing

The build took roughly 100 hours. After adjusting the plans and converting to metric, Dearing was ready to roll. He cut sheets of MDF using large printouts of the plans, and began gluing and laying out pieces to visualize spacing for the control panel. The boys helped, and even had some creative input: “The ‘hidden’ room under the slide was actually my 5-year-old’s idea. He asked if we could cut a door so he could hide his toys!”

After setting up the control panel, Dearing says one main oversight was planning the layout based only on the front. Since most of the pieces were bigger on the back, the inside was rather cramped when it came to wiring.

The electronics run on 12V power, and “the whole bed runs though a timer that cuts power at night, but it’s also only turned on when they are actively playing,” says Dearing. The system also has big, red emergency stop buttons that the kids love incorporating into their games.

Most of the buttons control real lights, sounds, fans, meters, and headlights. All the sounds are controlled via Raspberry Pi. Plus, Dearing wired in a couple sets of headphones with mics, so that the kids can communicate with each other just like real space explorers!

Even though it’s a rocket ship, the bunk bed has transformed into everything from a bus to a submarine during playtime. When asked if he gets to help pilot the ship, Dearing says, “Of course! I can’t fit into the cockpit easily, but I still get to wear headphones and join in.”