Help me build a number yelling device.

I attend a Special Olympics track meet every year. One person has the task of yelling out the number of entrants within each race so that the people that determine who comes in which place will know if they’re needed for that heat or not.

To save someone from having to yell all day long over the span of two days, I’d like to build a device that does it for them. Yes, we could just rotate the duties but where’s the fun in that?

My device requirements are:

  1. Must be small and portable. Battery powered.
  2. Simple to use. I’m thinking of a numeric keypad attached to a speaker of some sort that yells out whatever number is pressed. Since the track has 8 lanes, the device needs to only yell numbers 1 - 8.
  3. Ideally I would like it to yell my actual voice instead of something computer generated but this is not an absolute requirement.
  4. It needs to be loud enough so that it gets the attention of people outside approximately 30 feet away.

My background: I’m a computer programmer but have spent 30 years doing business programming, not “scientific” or low-level stuff.

If you have ideas as to where I could start in building this contraption, please let me know. This is purely for fun. It doesn’t need to be marketable.


Portable piano style keyboards can usually record voice sounds and have those sounds mapped to a specific key or button. Lots of people have decent ones laying around unused if you don’t. You can also connect them easily to a speaker and amplifier.

It is fairly easy to do on any laptop computer as well but battery life would be an issue.

Can you get a few walkie-talkies? o
Or an electric bullhorn or portable PA system?

Where is the meet held? A school should have some sort of PA system.

Android phone or tablet plus portable speaker plus custom soundboard

The keyboard would work but I was hoping for something small. I also don’t know of anyone that has one to lend me. You’re right about the PC, it would be simple to program. There’s a lot of downtime during the day so a laptop could go to sleep and probably make it through the day. Some sort of external speaker (Bluetooth maybe) would be required to get the volume that I need. We don’t have access to AC power.

Walkie talkies would work but we’d need 9 of them. A bullhorn would definitely work if it wouldn’t be too loud. I’ve never used one so I don’t know how adjustable they are.

The track has a PA system but we don’t necessarily want (or need) everyone hearing. Also, two sets of races are going on concurrently so it could cause confusion.

At my daughter’s school there’s a woman who calls kids over to the exit gate when the parent arrives. She uses a battery-powered speaker that slings over her shoulder and speaks into a CB-radio type handset. This is loud enough to attract the attention of the kids, but it’s not overpowering from >30 feet; the volume is probably adjustable. It beats a bullhorn because those can be heavy. If you’re interested I will try to find out the maker. Seems a lot easier to buy that than building something, unless this is as much about the project as the utility.

I appreciate the offer but your last sentence is exactly right. The main reason that I want to do this is just to see what I could do. If it were a serious situation, Special Olympics would buy something. Is just like to show up next year and say “Hey guys, let’s try this thing.”

“I’d just like to show up”. Stupid autocorrect.

Can you explain exactly what is to be yelled out? Is it the child’s name and lane number?

Is it just a single number announced when a “button” is pressed? I don’t see the need or advantage and that seems kinda hokey…or pretty easy to program by calling up .WAV files. (…like I know…:rolleyes: )

Raspberry Pi…

It’s just a number. Yes, it’s definitely hokey but it would serve a purpose. And as a said above, or at least am trying to covey, the end device is almost of secondary importance. The fun of building something is a large part of the appeal. Ideally, the device would just be a handheld numeric keypad that “yelled” whatever number was pressed.

I’m not a programmer at all but my experience in engineering is that the first job is, “Define the Goal” of the project. Thanks for doing that!

Just searching on Ebay for “raspberry pi” and “keyboard” or “keypad” brings up several kits, some with speakers. The output for a small speaker could probably be used for the microphone input of something like these “portable battery pa speaker”.

Sounds neat!

Grab a cheap electronic bingo caller from ebay or a local market, and replicate the internals in your own enclosure… or look into writing software or an app to do the task, then dedicate a device to it.

either way, It sounds like ‘talking bingo caller’ could be a good starting point…

Soundboard app for your phone feeding via blue tooth to an amp and speaker. Seems like the easiest thing that fits your needs.

Something like this:

And this:

I was gonna say this, except just hold the phone up to a bullhorn.

I had to buy a bullhorn recently. They are surprisingly difficult to find. I tried Sports Authority, which seems like a place that would have them. The worker didn’t even know what I was talking about. When I was finally able to make him understand, he said they don’t have them.
Nothing at Wal-Mart or Target. Radio Shack (yea, there’s actually a Radio Shack in Anchorage still…) had one for about $100. It was not of good quality.

You know where I ended up finding one? Fuckin JC Penney!!
They have a tailgating section with stupid “man gifts” and “sports fan” gifts. But they actually had a decent bullhorn, and it was on sale. Come to think of it, what item is not on sale at JC Penney. Anyway, if you want a decent bull horn for $40, try JC Penney.

Okay, that rules out my suggestion, a whiteboard and a marker.

PC’s are all capable of reading text. Like in a word processing file.

So just make a list in a file of the numbers you are wanting to announce. And hook up the PC to a loud speaker. You can get a portable PC and a battery powered speaker/amplifier…