Rudolph the reindeer has surgery

The guys at Fredworks have helped my kids to understand the simplicity of electric circuits, batteries, and switches through the arduino classes and open hack nights. We learned to apply these skills to fix our poor Rudolph the reindeer toy

the other day. Rudolph is a hot potato game that is activated through a button switch in his foot and then gets passed (or thrown) around while he plays music. When the music stops, the person holding Rudolph is eliminated from the game.


When Rudolph stopped working one day, we resisted the urge to throw him away (like most folks would do). We figured Rudolph was worth saving and we may have the skills to fix him.


rudolph1Our first task was to take Rudolph into surgery and open him up with a seam ripper. We discovered that the wiring to a button in his foot was too short and not up to the stress of repetitive injury. The 2 wires directed to the foot were loose within his abdomen. We then took the seam ripper to the stitching in the ankle and unhinged his foot to access the button which was enclosed in a plastic shell. That was unstitched and dissected to find the metal contacts with the torn wire segments.


My 8 year old was up to the task of soldering afterrudolph2 working on other Fredworks projects. So we found some solid core wire to lengthen Rudolph’s pre-existing wires. Just overlapped those with the helping hands and laid on a thick layer of solder. The green segments on the red wiring are pieces of heat shrink tubing that sealed the splice and prevents any short circuits. My kids love watching heat shrink tubing do its thing.




rudolph3Then we had to reattach the foot button by removing the old solder with a desoldering wick and then soldering the wire extensions back onto the flat contacts of the foot button. I thought he did a great job with these attachments without touching each other.


We verified the button worked before advancing to the final step. As exciting as electronics can be, many of these projects end up with A LOT OF SEWING!!!

I sewed the foot back with a running stitch of white nylon and my son closed the abdomen with a mix of running stitches and some kind of modified mattress stitches. Whatever works!!!


In the end, Rudolph was saved from the landfill and he works better than ever.

The Author