In today’s high-​​tech world, playing an inter­na­tional game of chess in your living room is nothing to get excited about — that is, if the board is on your com­puter screen. But what if the board is actu­ally a phys­ical object sit­ting on your table?

We wanted to bring back the orig­inal look and feel of cor­re­spon­dence chess,” said Joseph Dynes, E’12. Dynes is one of seven elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering stu­dents who designed a system called Board Games over IP for a senior cap­stone project, which won second place in this year’s ECE Cap­stone Design Competition.

Playing a game of chess on BGoIP is a bit like playing with a ghost. One player moves his piece, then mag­netic sen­sors on the under side of the board detect the new loca­tion and turn it into an elec­tric signal, which is trans­mitted over the Internet to his opponent’s board. When the oppo­nent plays his move, a piece is “ele­gantly ush­ered” across your board, a few — or a few thou­sand — miles away.

It’s mys­te­ri­ously awe­some,” said Dynes, echoing a sen­ti­ment shared by sev­eral thou­sand viewers of the BGoIP You Tube video.

Suc­cessful Cap­stone groups are always obsessed with their projects,” he added, noting that his team spent hun­dreds of hours designing, imple­menting and opti­mizing the device.

After set­tling on an ini­tial design, the student-​​researchers had to test each indi­vidual com­po­nent, said team member Matt Zabatta, E’12. “This included con­trol­ling the motors with our soft­ware, attaching the motor system to the rails so that they could slide in a manner we designed, and set­tling on an elec­tro­magnet strength that was strong enough to grab our mag­netic chess pieces over a 1-​​inch gap,” he explained.

The stu­dents spent dozens of hours hand wiring the cir­cuitry required to detect and move the pieces and dozens more testing their hand­i­work. “The biggest chal­lenge we faced was cal­i­brating the mag­netic pieces to be detected prop­erly,” said Scott Bielski, E’12.

The team’s fac­ulty advisor, elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering pro­fessor Waleed Meleis, said the stu­dents had to solve a series of dif­fi­cult tech­nical prob­lems. They had to figure out, for example, “how to make the board sur­face mod­ular to allow mul­tiple games to be cre­ated, move pieces smoothly and reli­ably, and con­nect players online.”

The team has filed a patent appli­ca­tion through North­eastern and hopes to com­mer­cialize the product. “Ide­ally we’d like to explore the idea of BGoIP as a busi­ness ven­ture either inde­pen­dently or through some other com­pany,” said Zabatta.