Monday, November 24, 2014

Advanced Robotics 2014/15

Looking at the amazing things that robotic technology has accomplished in recent years I hesitate to call my upcoming class "Advanced".  Bigger toys would be a more fair description.

I took last year off, but for the preceding six years I had followed up my small "Machines Behaving Badly" class with a more ambitious project.  Some worked out well, others less so.  It depends on the caliber of student you get, and in a free for all sign up it varies.  And I have learned a few things over the years, that pesky project to build a remote control dragster came to grief when we got a long, dismal winter that precluded outdoor testing (although the mothballed dragster did get its moment of glory later).

This year I am going to give the kids the final decision.  One option will be to reprise the "lunch room robot" a vaguely humanoid five foot tall machine that cruised around dispensing either M&Ms or a brief spritz from its on board water gun.

Or....I have obtained some old wooden writing desks, the sort that used to be lined up in rows in every classroom in America. They seem like just the thing for automation, and I hope we end up doing the Grand Prix Desk race in the hallways in a few months. Hmmm. Just recalled that there was a cheesy 1975 cult movie called Death Race 2000,  Desk Race 2015 has a nice ring to it, no?

With a wide assortment of various motor and wheel types I think we could juggle components and operating voltage to create three racers with roughly equal velocity and torque.

I have looked at programming options but most likely we will just keep them under radio control.

There is still that nasty scuff in the hallway from where we crashed that dragster on an indoor half power test years back.

Updates now and then from December through February.

Gearbox/motor combinations from Barbie Jeeps.  An excellent go to choice.  But unless you over volt them and trick them out with big wheels, the velocity tends to be appropriate for complacent toddlers...

Other geared motors.  The top one is from a coin sorting machine.  Actually rather powerful but with an "Achilles heel" plastic gear inside. The other option shown is an old school 7.2 volt cordless drill. No plastic in there and plenty frisky at 12 volts  Easy to attach wheels, just lock them into the chuck.

Oh, I hope it does not come down to using starter motors.  This one is from an outboard boat motor. It was fit with a pulley for a project many years back. No directional control, one would have to sprint, decelerate and hope you can execute a ninety degree turn at each bend in the hallway.

I now have a big box of Victor 884 and 883 speed controllers.  Like all electronics they keep getting cheaper all the time.  Somewhat obsolete but still quite functional, I saw one on ebay recently with a starting bid of $9.99!

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