Things I Learned Today
Tuesday, October 21 2008

Two things I learned today:

I’ve never been what one might call “handy,” in a go-sweat-and-grunt-and-build-something sort of way. I’m fairly good at building interesting things electronically, of widely ranging complexity. Actually fixing big items requiring brute strength, however, seems to be beyond me.

I should note that this is not due to lack of trying on my father’s part. He tried to get all three of us to do everything with him, as kids: fix cars (we actually own some cars where one can fix it oneself without an EE degree), repair plumbing, build various things. We actually did all of it, but for me at least, the lessons learned there didn’t really seem to rub off much; while I was shown how to do things, and I assisted in their completion (“OK, now you do it!” “OK!”), all these years later it doesn’t seem to have given me an ability to, you know, do stuff.

I suppose, then, that it’s a good thing that I’m building Project Voom for my own sake, and not, say, to impress a lady. She would otherwise, no doubt, be rolling on the ground laughing after today.

That said, Voom is actually going well, in the sense that I now have nearly all the parts necessary, I know how I wish to complete the wiring, and I have a full design for (and soon, will have completed) the frame.

Motors used for building Segway-like devices are usually taken from wheelchairs– and indeed, if you look on eBay for wheelchair motors, most of the listings will reference battlebots or robotics in the hope of attracting these types of buyers. I was lucky enough, a few weeks ago, to run across a listing on eBay for an actual powered wheelchair in full working condition, and with a new set of batteries (so they could actually hold a charge), for about half what one would expect to pay for one working wheelchair motor– so I snapped it up. This has advanced my project from the “let’s build a prototype first” phase to the “let’s just go ahead and build the thing” phase– perhaps to its detriment, but oh well.

I enjoy the challenge, certainly; I haven’t done robotics since high school– 9 years ago now– and so it’s fun to go back to it. The actual programming is pretty straightforward– measure angle, calculate a new speed, set the new speed, rinse, repeat– but the construction of this robot is more in-depth than my old ones were, which is interesting.

When I get a frame that looks somewhat segway-ish, I’ll post a picture, but for now, imagining a bunch of pipes on my floor, and purple knuckles, will get you nicely to the current status of Project Voom. Ah well.

[EDIT: two typos.]

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