Our Inspiration A friend made a joke about copying something with your mouse, switching your mouse to another computer, and pasting to the new computer. We laughed because that obviously is not how a mouse works, but then we thought.... why not?
Our Hack Our hack is a mouse that also acts as a storage device with 16 GB of free storage!
How We Made It We bought a 4-port USB hub and a 16 GB flash drive and stripped away the plastic containers. We separated the mouse's cord from its motherboard and removed the male USB end from the 4 port-hub. We soldered the wires coming from the mouse's motherboard to a port on the USB hub and then soldered the flash drive to another port. We took the wires coming from the hub that originally led to the male USB and connected them to the cord we originally separated from the mouse.
Summary We connected the mouse and the flash drive to the USB hub, connected the hub to the cord to plug in the computer, and enclosed it all within the mouse!
Challenges We struggled to originally settle on an idea. Nothing held our interests until we joked about creating a mouse that could bring files with it. As all computer science majors, we were hesitant at first. After researching and planning how to create this mouse, we went to the hardware room to find that all the necessary hardware and equipment were not readily available. We ran to the store and bought the mouse, the flash drive, and the 4-port USB hub. An amazing and very much appreciated director, helped us find other ways to obtain the remaining necessary equipment needed to proceed with the idea. She taught us the basic of solder and assisted us when needed (so many thanks to Jennifer!). The wires proved to be incredibly delicate and the pins for the USB ports were incredibly close together, making soldering quite the challenge. After hours of soldering, we tested our hardware before enclosing it all within the mouse. To our shock, the lights all turned on the first try! However, after moving wires and hardware around in order to enclose the hardware within the mouse, the mouse no longer worked. We messed around with the wires and the laptop connection and finally identified the problem to be the soldered parts of wires coming into contact with each other. After adding some electrical tape, our storage mouse was fully functioning!
Accomplishments As mentioned above, we are all computer science majors with very little to no hardware/electrical experience at all. Creating this product was far outside our realm of comfort and learning new skills such as soldering was fun and very rewarding! It was also extremely gratifying to know that our project ideas and plans were correct and that our soldering job was so well done that the hardware worked exactly as expect the first try. We are all very proud to present this mouse,which that looks entirely unmodified, but has a lot of modification on the inside!
What We Learned We learned that we can be successful at projects outside our usual pursuits and to not be so reluctant to branch out of our "normal". We learned some risk pays off; we weren't confident that we had the knowledge or resources needed to complete our project, but we took the risk and went for it and ultimately viewed it as worthwhile that taught us many new ideas and skills. We learned a decent amount about circuitry, the materials, and tools used in modifying the wiring. None of us were even aware that there are various soldering materials to choose from. We learned that copper is useful at "absorbing" the unwanted solder, we also learned that manipulating the solder takes a good amount of practice, patience, and very well refine small-motor skills. Overall, we learned that attaching wires to pins is much more difficult than we imagined and we gained more respect for electrical and computer engineers!
What's Next for PackRat We imagine future versions of PackRat to have larger base storage capacities (something that could easily be done now but was not done due to cost and time) and the ability to upgrade storage. We imagine custom drivers that expand the functionality of the mouse to be stored on the device. The custom drivers could include things such as a "clipboard" feature to truly allow you to copy and paste between machines and customized right-click menu options. We could also have mice with pre-loaded bootable operating systems. As some viewers of the device during show time suggested, this could be used for large variety of people some example including, 2 factor authentication, unlock devices in the mouse such as finger print scanners or a sensor to receive signals from certain devices which allows for instant verification so you can unlock the computer just by touching the mouse.