Building Mousey the Junkbot
From constructing the Junkbot I learned how to work in teams and that communication with others is essential. At first, starting the project was hard. We had no idea how to begin. We bought all the supplies and when we got together to start constructing, it took us at least 4 hours to figure out how to even go about the project.
Although we had all the instructions and the slides from class, we were a little confused. Since none of us had experience with electronics, this was a new experience for us all. When we got together, all of us kept reading the instructions and looking back and forth at the parts. At this time, the project seemed really difficult.
The instructions weren’t really clear so, as a result, we all started working on various parts of the project without necessarily going in the order of the instructions. However, after all this, we decided that it would be best if we all worked together on one aspect at a time. It would help us all get a better understanding of what we were doing and would organize our thoughts much more.
The more patient we became, the smoother our project went. Once we started to get the gist of the whole project, things started coming together. We all started to understand how to go about building the Junkbot.
All of us worked together to solder the parts. Soldering was the most tedious aspect of this project. Sometimes the lead would fall right off and other times our wire or component wouldn’t stick to one another. It took us some time to get the hang of soldering, but the more we did it, the faster we became.
Because our group got along well, all of us were able to work together easily and communication was simple. We didn’t have any problems between any members and so building the mouse went smoothly in that sense.
After all the connections and wiring were complete, everything seemed to go perfectly except for one thing – the wheels. Our motors were working, our back up switch was working, but when we attached the wheels, the mouse would go in a circle. This was our biggest problem.
In order to address this issue, we decided that there were three possibilities for this failure. Firstly, it may be our connections. We didn’t know if we accidentally attached the positives to the negatives of the motors which therefore caused the motors to go in a circle. Our other option was that it may be that the angle of our motor. It may have been too high or too low, or uneven with the opposite motor. Our last option was that the wheels did not fit properly, which caused an imbalance when the motors would push forward.
So we decided to test the angles first. The more we meddled with the angles of the motors, the better the mouse moved. So we concluded that it couldn’t have been the connections. Next we watched the movement of the mouse more closely. We realized that the mouse would go straight once turned on, but after moving further, it would go in a circle. After noticing that, we realized that the right wheel was not turning. Therefore, our problem was in our wheels.
Our wheels were very hard plastic, which made the mouse have extreme difficulty in moving. It would move at a rate of about an inch every 30 seconds. To fix that, we added rubber to the wheels. It worked a lot better but, still, the problem remained: the mouse kept moving in a circle. The right wheel did not fit as well as the left wheel had, so we tried hot gluing them on. It worked for a little, but it hardly fixed it. The mouse kept circling and circling.
That really frustrated us. We had everything else work but the wheels. We kept trying to glue it on better, but it really wouldn’t work. At this point, we were thinking of quitting and leaving the project as is considering everything functioned, it was just that we didn’t have properly fitting wheels.
However, the more we thought about it, we realized that we had invested so much time into this project and we had gotten this far, so the least we could do is get the wheels to work. Therefore, we decided not to quit and we continued working on the wheels.
Hot glue didn’t work, so I tried super gluing it. That failed, too. We had read that other projects had used rubber bands as wheels so we tried that. We couldn’t get the rubber bands to remain in place or even rotate with the wheels so that failed as well. I was just getting really frustrated with this, so I decided to just pull off the wheels and use something else.
I considered using buttons, but realized that it wouldn’t rotate properly because the hole was not centered, therefore, if attached, the wheel would rotate and form an oblong shape. Consequently, it wouldn’t work.
Next, I considered using the $.25 toy balls that you find in the supermarket toy machines. I figured that since they were round, they would rotate well, considering they were circles in essence. I attached them and hoped for the best and they worked! Except, the only problem was that they were too big. Still, regardless of that fact, the mouse actually stopped moving in just circles.
To address the left over circling issues, I figured that if I added more weight to the front of the mouse, there would be more pressure placed between the motor’s axle and the part where it was attached to the balls, causing the motors to touch the balls more and, as a result, causing the balls to rotate more with the motors.
After having added more weight to the front of the mouse, the mouse moved even more smoothly. Well, the only setback of our current design is that our mouse moves quite slowly. However, it does move in more than just a circle, which was the problem we were trying to address. At least our current design allows the mouse to function as it is meant to, no matter how slow it is.
This project, in the end, was enjoyable. I liked having to think of other ways of addressing our problems. Even though it was annoying when things weren’t going our way, it felt really exciting when they finally did. This project was fun in that it forced us to be resourceful and think outside of the box. Instead of using typical wheels, we resorted to toy balls, which worked in the end and fixed our problem since we didn’t have actual wheels to replace our old ones with.
The Junkbot project makes me want to get more involved with hands-on projects. I enjoyed the whole process, no matter how tedious it became. After having completed this project, I have gained a greater appreciation for designing and electronics.
In addition, after the project, I learned that I really like working in teams. It makes things go really smoothly because if someone doesn’t understand something, there will always be someone else to help you get on track. When everyone is confused, like we were, we all worked together to get what we needed done. So, if I were alone, I would probably be stuck on one thing forever; but, being in teams, there will always be someone there to help you. Well, overall, getting involved in the project was a worthwhile experience.