Friday, August 4, 2017

Ray and Millie's Chair Rides Again

Across the street from us is a house that until recently has been occupied by a series of elderly folks.  It makes sense, its one story, in a safe part of town and is close to things.

Our favorite oldsters were a couple named Ray and Millie.  

This was at a time when we had active boys tearing around the neighborhood, often using our front lawn for elaborate games.  Ray and Millie would sometimes just set up their lawn chairs and watch.

After a few years they both passed away.  Ray had a sudden cardiac arrest one day. Millie just grew weaker and weaker until she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. They were both swell people.

Somehow we ended up with a couple of their chairs.  Not the lawn chairs, but a pair of vintage blue velour covered easy chairs.  They never made the A-list furniture.  I think they had a brief stay in our family room, then they went to the lake cabin. Finally they ended up in ignored in our utility room...just a stay of execution until the weary old chairs "went away".

So it was excellent timing when an opportunity to put one of the chairs to good use came up.

Our FIRST Robotics team is going to be in the local parade.  And while our competition robot is cool, it lacks a certain something.  For one thing parade rules mean we can't fire up the ball shooter or the rope climber.  So its just a colorful box driving around.

We needed something a bit more eye catching, so I figured lets have our robot driven by somebody sitting in an old easy chair....which is itself being driven!  Hopefully they can chase each other around.  So, how to "robotize" Ray's old chair?

 We started by taking off the swivel base.

 Most of the "guts" of this project were left overs from my "Battlebot" Days.  It shows.

 Adding the electronics, which uncharacteristically fired up on the first attempt. 

The final result.  We have a bit of tweaking to do but it is basically parade ready.  Not bad for 4.5 hours of work.

My video skills are quite deficient, but I did shoot a few seconds of the mostly finished parade unit being driven for the first time. I can't help it.  After so many robots built over so many years the "Von Frankenstein" moment when a creation first powers up and moves is still special.


Its a tribute to our team's dedication that they came in to work on a summer vacation afternoon.  And seemed to be having a good time.

Ray and Millie would have enjoyed watching.

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