Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bristlebots - They Live!!

I've been having more fun today. After the previous failure I've been determined to get my bristlebots up and running. So I bought a new power supply to help me establish whether the pager motors were working or not.
Magic electric box with lights and numbers!!
Turns out the motors are fine and drawing 0.05A at 3V - perfect! So why don't they work in my bots?? After a little more testing I realise that when I apply power to the copper leads I soldered on I get nothing, hmm...

Admittedly I'm not an experienced solderer(?) but really what could I have done wrong. So I test the copper wire itself. Huh, did I miss the memo that copper no longer conducts electricity? Because the wire I have doesn't! More research is needed and it turns out that when you buy copper wire it is coated with non-conductive enamel (argh!! something to do with using it to coil round stuff so it doesn't short I think - but seriously, this is annoying). So out comes the craft knife to scrape all the enamel off.
Special, non-conducting copper - WTF!
After treatment of the wire I retest with batteries and motors and... woohoo, the motors spin up!! Now to put the bots back together.
New wires and ready for batteries...
So now I have working bristlebots... sort of. At first they're not very stable and when they do stay upright they tend to just spin around in circles. The stability issues can probably be attributed to the length of the toothbrush bristles and all the weight on top so out come the scissors. Trimming toothbrush bristles is not as easy as you might think when you want to keep the bristly surface flat - maybe I should have used a smaller pair of scissors, like nail scissors perhaps. Anyway trimming helps a lot so here's a before and after video of the results - although, obviously there's still a lot of room for improvement :)

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