Sunday, May 30, 2004

Freeform Robotics

My first attempt at robot creation was to build what is called a Photovore or Photopopper. This is an insect like creature who eats only one thing - light. Wherever light is this little guy heads towards it and will position himself until he is receiving the maximum amount of it. A Photovore consists of a small solar panel, two pager motors, a capacitor, two green or red leds and some transistors and resistors. Here's a picture of my first breadboarded Photovore which allows you to test all of the parts and see if your wiring and component placements are correct. This took me about a week and a half to get right and for a first timer was real frustrating but very rewarding once it was accomplished. This is actually half of the Photovore and the other half was breadboarded later which consists of all the components on the left side minus the capacitor and solar panel.

Next I tried to "freeform" a photovore which involves soldering the components in as tight a fit as possible to achieve something compact and that looks good. That is if a "bug" can look good. It was a bust and didn't work at all. So next I tried soldering each half of the photovore on two different tiny breadboards. This is the photovore in working condition but not fully assembled. I will call him "minivore". Actually it looks more like Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) after he was teleported in 'The Fly' but I do digress:

And after about 3 days work I soldered the last wire in place, put the little guy under a 60 watt lamp and the motors started turning! I was finally able to shout "It's aliiiiiivvvvveeeee"! I always wanted to say that. I must have a little Frankenstien in me. Here he is in all his glory. He's kind of a cross between a bug and a parked Harley. He actually works though:

Here's a good tutorial on how to breadboard and build a freeform Photovore: Photovores

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