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A Broken Pinky Won’t Stop Him: Teen Builds Custom Minecraft Controller
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Photography by Jim Merullo

If you had to rank your fingers from most important to least important, your pinky would probably be the last one on that list. A broken pinky, however, might land you in a cast that restricts the movements of your other, more hardworking fingers. That’s what happened to Seamus Merullo, 13, when he broke his pinky. Barely able to move his fingers within his cast, it first looked like Seamus would have to spend his recovery without doing one of his favorite activities: playing Minecraft.

Almost as soon as he came home from the hospital, Seamus decided that he wanted to build a controller for his left hand so he could control the Minecraft keys with his fingertips. Once he came up with the idea, the thought was no longer “I can’t play Minecraft,” but instead “I can play Minecraft once we figure this out.”

His father, Jim Merullo, thought that they could do it by prying apart an old USB keyboard, so together they got to work. Over the course of four nights, the two took some keyboards destined for the trash (lots of coffee spills at Merullo’s office, apparently) and hacked the circuit boards so they could be triggered by more accessible buttons.

It was something that neither had done before. Seamus helped trace the path of the keyboard keys back to the board and Merullo did all the soldering. “At one point I told him I was going to teach him to solder but then we realized he only had one free hand,” Merullo said, explaining that he did most of the physical parts of the project.

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“It was a lot of fun to build, but heartbreaking when we broke the first two circuit boards we had,” Seamus said of the build, but ultimately the trial and error was worth it.

Since completing the assistive controller, Seamus has used it every day for two weeks. “I like that it’s a custom fit for me and my cast. I like that the buttons are exactly where I need them,” Seamus said. The cast comes off soon, but the father and son will keep the controller around as a keepsake (hopefully it won’t actually be needed any time soon).

8 thoughts on “A Broken Pinky Won’t Stop Him: Teen Builds Custom Minecraft Controller

  1. Did anyone stop to think if the keyboards they HACKED were originally designed to do this?

    This is highly illegal. Could you imagine if everyone took apart old things and modified them to suit their needs? Where are we headed!?

    That child should find a commercially available solution to his problem!

    1. I can’t tell if this is a serious comment (I really hope not):

      “Could you imagine if everyone took apart old things and modified them to suit their needs? Where are we headed!?”

      1. It’s not a serious comment. This is obviously a reference to Ahmed Mohammed, the clock builder. In case it’s not clear, he’s suggesting Ahmed did essentially the same thing, which I basically agree with (although this took a lot more skill).

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        2. no it was just me being totally sarcastic. no reference to Ahmed. fantastic project though, very inspiring.

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      2. yup, it was me being totally sarcastic. :)

        Fantastic project, very inspiring.

        Altoids could probably remain in business if they just sold tins :)

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A typical day for Lisa includes: getting up to see the sunrise, bicycling, interning at Make:, reading and writing short stories, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts for hours while working on projects or chores.

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