Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Great Intro Electronics and Robotics Project

The Make Magazine web site pointed me to this great open house activity that the Electrical Engineering department over at WUSTL put on for potential incoming freshmen. Students could show up and build their own light-activated robot with a few dollars worth of parts in about 30 minutes using absolutely no tools whatsoever. And they got to take their new pet home when they were finished with version 1.0.

Using the paint roller drive wheel vs. motor shaft ratio of diameters as an effective gear reduction is a bit of creative genius. Given that there are only ten or so parts and the instructions are only a page long, I'm thinking this one could be useful even in late elementary school.

Some early prep work was necessary to hot-glue the breadboards to the paint rollers, and perhaps solder the connectors onto the battery leads. But intrepid students could easily figure that part out for a longer classroom activity. I just love this photo from the web site of one student "walking their robot" and leading it with a flashlight.

Get the one-page assembly instructions here and get those kids building robots. Once they've mastered this initial version, begin asking questions like, "okay, now how would you build another version that steers?" or "How would you make it go faster, or climb steeper hills?" or "how big could you make it and how much would it carry?"

What a great beginning.


Anonymous said...

it looks intriguing. I am tempted to build it myself. Phil

Anonymous said...

To Phil: If you do, can I walk it when we next visit?