Tennis Balls and LED's - Increasing user engagement

Recently I have been doing some freelance web development work for a local search marketing company called Propellernet, they are a great local company which really value their staff. One of the things they have in their office is something I tried to implement elsewhere many years ago; a simple staff happiness survey. Propellernet's implementation involves all the staff being given a plastic ball once a week, they then place it in one of three containers when leaving the building, happy, neutral, and sad.
The power of this type of survey is the data over time, one survey on its own is useless as there is no benchmark but when you're comparing week to week and month to month trends can be spotted and problems dealt with before they become too big.

Their implementation is very simple so I decided to take a look and see how interest and engagement could be increased through user feedback. I did this as a personal project so anything I built had to be temporary and be removable at the end.

The Build
In the end I decided to build an illuminated insert which would sit it in the opening, this would detect the ball passing through and provide immediate feedback in the form of a light effect.
I designed a plastic ring which I printed out of transparent plastic, I then attached this to a piece of drain pipe which acted as the funnel for the ball to pass through. I then mounted 8 RGB leds around the ring so their light passed through.

Ball Drop Detector

The whole point of this project was feedback which meant I needed the balls to trigger something as they passed through. The easiest way to achieve this would be a switch but sadly the balls that were being used were so light that they wouldn't trigger one. I did experiment with an optical gate but in the end it turned out switching to tennis balls was a good alternative.

This project worked well and I achieved what I set out to do. The end system dropped in without any modifications and worked providing immediate feedback when a ball was dropped in the hole.

Future Changes
At the moment all that the system does is flash the light ring, this is easily expandable to do other things. An easy improvement would be to add a counter, something that will tally up the number of balls entered into each compartment. Another potential improvement would be to pass this data out to another system, adding an internet connection would be relatively easy so every time someone drops a ball through a hole this is sent off and stored in a database allowing immediate feedback to staff or management.