Friday, March 15, 2019

Foundations of a Robot Puppet

While in my local Lakeshore Learning teacher supply store I spotted this little toy on a discount shelf and snapped it up. I "knew" I wouldn't use it (i.e. "thought" I wouldn't use it), but figured it might provide some inspiration for my own robot project.

Little did I know that it would become the basis of my show this summer!

First of all, this is a toy, and certainly NOT a robot. From an electronic standpoint it is a simple circuit with a switch, battery, and a motor; turn on the switch and it completes the circuit causing the motor to run until you turn it off.

But I liked two thing about it that I wanted to use: 1) The frame that holds the can, and 2) the gear exchange that uses the motor to drive the wheels.

But I wanted to wire it to an Arduino so that I could control various aspects of the motor. I wanted to be able to go forward AND backward. I wanted to be able to control the SPEED of the motor, and I wanted to be able to time certain things to happen (move forward for 2 seconds then stop for 5 seconds, then go backwards at half speed for 2 seconds, etc.).

Anyway, I have been playing with it. I am unsure of what I'll be able to do, but I was happy to notice that 10 oz. cans (most soup cans, Rotel tomatoes, etc) are about the same size as soda cans and will fit within the frame of this robot.

The downside is that I knew that one can would not be big enough to hold my Arduino and all the wires I might need for the LEDs, moving arms, etc. So I carefully measured the inner diameter of a 10 oz. can, got on Tinkercad and fabricated this "Tin Can Connector."

I'm not going to lie to you. This was very simple to create...and I still felt like a freaking ROCK STAR when I finished! And even MORE like a rock star when I picked it up from my local library (thank you Friendswood Public Library for being so amazing!!).

I'm even more inspired now than ever before about this summer's show. We live in an amazing time where we can sit at a computer, imagine something, design it, email that file to our local library, and for pennies per gram, pick up a perfect rendition of our imagination come to fruition.

I'm not mechanically inclined and never have been. So, when I tell you I'm nervous about finishing this project, it is true. But this first step was so surprisingly easy, that my confidence has been renewed. For a long time I kept thinking I should just BUY a robot that does what I need and be done with it. But I just couldn't bring myself to do a show about MAKING things while refusing to even TRY. So, if this doesn't end up in the show this summer, know that it wasn't for lack of TRYING!!