1.31.2009 (Saturday) – Day 10 –
I can’t think of a better reason for building the Science City Labyrinth Project than this. I received an email today with a design for a pneumatic actuated game platform design by Henry. He is 12 years old and was listening as we discussed the project at Thursday’s Cowtown Computer Congress (CCCKC) meeting.
John, Henry’s dad, sent me this email:
Just wanted to let you know Henry has had a great time thinking about your giant Labyrinth project. On the way home after the CCCKC meeting we had some fun conversation imagining the project and problem-solving different parts of it. Thought I’d share his idea with you — I know you’re well down the design path, I just thought you’d get a kick out it.
He was mostly thinking about how you can get a board that huge to move fast enough to respond to the Wii commands without stripping gears or fouling a servo’s rotation sensors. His solution was pneumatics (he had just seen the virtual waterslide episode of Prototype This! – so he had pneumatics and hydraulics on his mind). And rather than have a motor turn the board (that’s a lot of torque), he thought balancing the board on a single point would allow gravity to do some of the work, so the pneumatics would only have to do up/down — and with a solenoid valve the pneumatics could power on the push up as well as the pull down or hold in position.
Here’s a sketch…. actually, maybe that balance point in the middle wouldn’t even be necessary if the pneumatics were strong enough.
Anyway…. Enjoy the workings of a young hacker’s mind:
Henry and his dad have an important project of their own. They are making plans to build a drum-bot exhibit at Kansas City’s Kaleidoscope. He also noticed we were talking about vacuum forming some parts for our labyrinth game and sent along a link to the vacuum forming machine he built from plans in Make Magazine.
What About Using Pneumatics?
Over the last few years the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) has included pneumatics in their kit of parts. This kit is available for the Vex Robotics Design System too. My experience with pneumatics is based on this kit of parts for the FRC robots.
Some issues when using this kit are the cylinders don’t give us precision movement. When activated they are either full on or off, making it difficult to go to specific locations along the way. Pneumatics also require an air supply which can be noisy while compressors are running and the constant movement could overpower an air compressor. The amount of time playing the game and moving the platform would need to be considered when determining the size of an air compressor. Our greatest concern for using pneumatics though was its precision control issue. I like Henry’s idea and encourage others to keep those ideas coming.
Oh No, He’s Got The Knack
I learned about this video on YouTube. Seems like this might be an appropriate time to include it here: