Robots build day

Despite not having my camera, we did have a build day last Saturday.  It was supposed to be more of a catch up day to get everyone with a working gearbox/chassis/motorcontroller set so they could start working on the fun part. Because of the pain involved in motor controller soldering, the only group to make it through the day with a working motor was Zach and Jake. Hopefully by next weekend, several other groups will be ready to add sensors to their robot and start exploring robotics.

Because Zach and Jake missed the seminar from two weeks ago, I started by giving them all their parts and a basic rundown on how to program the arduino. After doing the LED blink, I had them assemble their gearbox and start soldering together the motor controller. I didn’t have time to etch a good controller board, but I think I’ll definitely do so for the future. Getting electronics newbies to solder a 15 pin chip with perf board and jumpers was pretty hard. They kept up the good fight, but it did take a lot longer than I had originally hoped.

Despite this, by the end of the day they had a distinctly phallic shaped robot zipping around. (Well, maybe zipping is a bad term, but they got it moving.)  A few other people showed up and worked a bit, to varying degrees of success.  I think  in addition to a pre-etched board, we would have gotten a lot of benefit from having precut acrylic for them to use if they wanted to copy my design.  The more I think about it, the more I think making this as either a concrete set of plans or as a kit would be really helpful to get them off the ground. I don’t want to rob them of the feeling that they are designing and making it though, so its a hard choice.

This Saturday, I hope to get the rest of everyone who is still participating to the stage where they at least have a motor controller. After that I’m going to have to work on finishing the data timing section of the IR beacon and getting it working with the Arduino. If the innovation fair doesn’t kill me

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