By recreating the iconic Wizard’s Chess set from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (sorry America, it’s Philosopher, not Sorcerer), 18-year-old Jambassador Bethanie Fentiman has become my new hero.
Inspired by an idea she’d had last year, Bethanie decided to recreate the chess board from the book/movie as part of her A-Level coursework (putting everything I ever created at school to utter shame), utilising the knowledge and support of her fellow Jammers from the Kent Raspberry Jam community.
After searching through the internet for inspiration, she stumbled upon an Instructables guide for building an Arduino-powered chess robot, which gave her a basis on which to build her system of stepper motors, drawer runners, gears, magnets, and so on.
The next issue she faced in her quest for ultimate wizarding glory was to figure out how to actually play chess! Without any chess-playing know-how, Bethanie either needed to learn quickly or… cheat a bit. So she looked up the legal moves of each piece, coding them into the programme, allowing her to move on with the project without the need to monotonously learn the rules of the game.
There were a few snags along the way, mainly due to problems with measuring. But once assembled, everything was looking good.
On a minimal budget, Bethanie procured her chess pieces from a local charity shop, managing to get the board itself laser-cut for free, thanks to her school’s technology department.
Now complete, the board has begun its own ‘Wizard Chess Tour’, visiting various Raspberry Jams across the country. Its first stop was in Harlow, and more recently, Bethanie has taken the board to the August Covent Garden Jam.
You can find out more about the Wizard’s Chess board via the Kent Jams Twitter account and website. And if you’d like the board to visit your own Raspberry Jam event, send Bethanie word by owl and see what she says!