“…they found me. I don’t know how but they found me. Run for it Marty!”
--Doc Brown in Back to the Future
Every now and then my phone rings and somebody I have never met asks me for help on a robotics project. How they track me down is not always clear, but I was involved in building combat robots for a number of years and still teach a middle school class on the subject.
A call from a couple of years back was typical.
“Hi, we need a robotic goat for the high school production of Jacob and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. Opening night is in 72 hours.”
Well, one does try to be helpful when possible, although the memory of Donny Osmond being in town for a road production of this show and singing a stomach churningly awful version of the National Anthem at a Twins game had to be suppressed.
Assets: they had a nice goat head. And I had the contents of my workshop.
Liabilities: three days is not much time, and it must be dummy proof.
One of these wire skeleton reindeer ornaments is a good start.
The basic electronics I pulled from a previous project. It is two Victor speed controllers, a radio receiver and battery. The metal box did not fit inside the goat so I just used the wooden base. Collision protection was deemed optional.
Put a couple of furniture casters under the rear hooves of the goat. The drive motors and gearboxes were from the ever versatile Barbie Jeep, and the 12 volt battery fit between the front feet. I figured this would make for decent stability given that the wheel base (old lawnmower wheels) was so narrow.
Plop on the goat head and add some burlap from our costume closet and you have an entirely serviceable robot goat.
Time to completion: 48 hours. Cost of project. Zip.
I got a free ticket for my trouble. The rest of the cast was pretty good, but it seemed to me that the goat stole the show.