|The Solar Marble Machine from Solarbotics.com|
Today my son and I sat down to build it. Let's just say the part of the project that involved the laser-cut wood pieces went smoothly... the small circuit board that needed soldering up did not. The little circuit board didn't have holes... instead, you soldered components to small copper pads. I'm not a great solderer to begin with, and this thing was just pure frustrating. The pads are tiny... very close together, and I probably should have purchased a tinier tip for my soldering rig. Instead, I dove in and quickly discovered how hard it is to solder small lead wires on capacitors and transistors to pads while trying to keep the tiny solder beads from touching. I failed often. Lots of desolder wick was used, but in the end I either burnt out a component due to too much heat from the iron OR I created a short somewhere that wasn't easily visible to the eye. Whatever the case, there was no power going to the motor. My son was not happy. Neither was I.
|Failed to get the circuit board to provide power.|
And that's what I did. It doesn't look as perfect as the solar powered version, but my version has character. (And it'll run on a cloudy day). It took me about 15 minutes to find a tiny switch, a small 1xAA battery holder, and my wire strippers. Ten minutes after that, I called out to my son to come take a look at the operational Marble Machine. It made his day, and his smile made mine.
After getting the Marble Machine working, I was pretty fired up and feeling confident!
Over the years, I've been guilty of buying small electronics projects and jumping right in with the soldering iron. I don't know my ratio of successes to failures, but I'd be willing to bet that I ruined a lot of projects by just slapping everything together before testing all the components. I've made a promise to myself to avoid that kind of thing, and so that's why today I spent a good hour or so wiring up the Kaleidoscope Goggles' components with a breadboard and jumper wire.
The wiring isn't complicated, but imagine if one of the components was bad to begin with? The Trinket is $8, and each of the NeoPixel LED Rings is $10. It seemed wise to spend the time to just see if everything would work as desired.
Test wiring wasn't fun. I should probably investigate some better options to replace the small copper clips and jumper wires I used to connect all the components, but it did work. The frustration mainly came from wires popping out from under the clips. The Tinker (circuit board) also isn't designed to insert into a breadboard, so I angled it a bit so I could insert jumper wires through three specific holes (GND, Pwr, and Pin#0). The rest of the components -- battery box and two NeoPixel rings were a mix of jumper wire with clip and jumper wires sharing connectivity on the breadboard.
Yeah, it's not pretty. Not pretty at all. I tested each of the rings separately before connecting them together and powering them up. As the video below shows, the rings worked perfectly. I'll have to tinker with the program to change the brightness, speed, and color choices (it's all randomized right now) but that's got to be a cakewalk compared to test wiring these finicky items.
I hope you don't mind me interrupting the coverage of the Make: More Electronics experiments... these experiments are going to go a little slow based on my examination of later chapters. But hopefully with these side projects you'll see that I'm trying to take what I learn from the books and apply them elsewhere. I've got plenty of ideas for some new circuits of my own as I work through the book, so hopefully you'll enjoy them scattered in here and there as we move through the book.
[Note: Getting that tiny Trinket controller operational was another hour of troubleshooting -- the Adafruit forums were EXTREMELY helpful in helping me narrow down the problem I was having getting it to control the rings. This little device is amazing, and I've got a dozen ideas of my own for how I could use it. Check out the details here. I have no affiliation with Adafruit -- just really like many of their projects]