beanz Magazine

Robot Extensions

LunchboxLarry on Flickr

Use switches to take your robotic creations to the next level.

In August we explored three low-cost motors that are commonly used in entry-level robotics projects. Whether using a hobby motor to build an electric “color blender” or drawing bot, a stepper motor to control a simple elevator, or a servo motors to control a robotic hand, we need a power supply to turn our creations on. However, each of these three bots had to be disconnected from the power source to turn off. As such, our elevator continued going up and down until the batteries were actually removed and our drawing bot drew until we disconnected it!

This is fine for our first robotics projects, but to make a more user-friendly robot we need a better way to turn the power on and off. One of the most straightforward ways to do so is by adding a switch or button to the circuit inside our robot. A switch can be thought of as a button that can be pressed or flipped to either connect or disconnect the wires, which in turn either allows or blocks the flow of current (electricity).

For example, instead of connecting the color-blending bot with alligator clips and disconnecting the clips to make the hobby motor stop spinning, we could give the motor a stand and add a switch that we flip to turn the motor on and off. Now it is one step closer to a robotic toy that we would find for sale at a store!

Color-blender without a switch
Color-blender with a switch

The same goes for our tree house elevator. During our first iteration of an electric elevator, we did not include a switch, and thus had to either remove the batteries or disconnect the circuit in order to make the elevator stop. For our second iteration of the elevator project we attached the same stepper motor to a cardboard-box tower, and added a switch to turn the motor on and off. Now the elevator stops at the push of a button as opposed having to take the circuit apart!

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