I wanted a quick, easy to build robot kit to get back into electronics and robotics. I ask for a Herbie the Mouse Bot for Christmas and sure enough I got one. It was a fun kit to build and went together in a little over an hour.
You start off with a PC board…
… and a handful of components…
You break apart the PC board which serves as a PC board and a body for the mouse which, is pretty cool.
The PC boards join together via several solder joints. Tape is used to keep everything together until you are done soldering. A smaller board that holds the 9 volt battery connector helps keep the three main sides together. By the time you are done soldering all the joints it is a pretty sturdy little robot.
The whiskers and tail activate a relay when bumped so the mouse will backup to avoid getting stuck. I taped the relay down while I soldered it in.
Herbie with the photo diode “eyes” installed….
Herbie just about finished…
Herbie is an interesting robot because it uses a simple analog IC, the LM386, to do something you might think requires a much more complicated digital circuit or micro-controller/processor:
I have started to take a renewed interest in electronics again lately and wanted to get a good soldering station to work with. I have a couple fixed wattage irons I use for my RC plane wiring but I wanted something adjustable with a variety of alternative tips available.
I ordered a Weller WLC100 and it is working pretty well for me so far. I also ordered some smaller conical and screwdriver tips that make it easier to solder smaller components and connections. One of the reasons I went with the Weller is because it is a relatively well know brand and I know I will be able to find tips for it.
There are more expensive solder stations that have digital controls and displays but I decided that an analog control was adequate. After using the station for a bit I am pretty happy with the analog control. The amount of heat transferred is so strongly dictated by the conduction of heat between the iron and the component/pad that I don’t know that such temperature precision makes much difference for most hobby uses. If you just tin the tip of your iron with a little bit of solder it will make significantly help with the transfer of heat from your iron to the component/pad you are soldering.
The Weller iron is easy to grip with my fingers and doesn’t get too hot to handle at all. I built a Herbie the Mousebot Kit with it using a .062″ screw driver tip. It was nice to work with and did the job well. I would definitely pick up some smaller tips if you are going to be soldering smaller circuit boards. The screwdriver tip that comes with it is pretty nice but a small tip affords more precision.
I give the Weller WLC100 5 out of 5 stars. It is a good, relatively cheap soldering station with many tips available. Buy one and a couple tips to go with it:
The build is pretty easy (even for a 35 year old) and a lot fun. The kit comes in over 1300 parts so you really feel like your building something and not just putting a couple halves together. The parts come in numbered bags that correspond to the numbered sections in the instructions. There are often multiple bags with the same number for a single section. Lego included a few extras of the tiniest parts that tend to get lost in the carpet.
There are only a couple downsides to the kit. The two “laser blasters” that launch projectiles work by you just quickly depressing the launch button that drives a wedge piece behind the projectile to push it out. This is kind of silly to me and I think the kit would have been better if they were just static elements in my opinion.
The other negative was the capsule that goes inside. It is assembled by connecting two specially molded pieces together. I don’t like this kind of Lego construction and would have preferred it if they just left it out or designed it to build from smaller, standard Lego pieces.
I put together a list of pros and cons:
Over 1300 parts so it will keep you building for a bit.
Spare tiny pieces.
It’s big. About 23 inches long.
The laser blasters that shoot projectiles are kind of cheesy.
The capsule that goes inside is mostly just two halves that go together.
Doesn’t shoot real bolts of green light.
I took some pictures while my Imperial Star Destroyer was under construction:
I felt the kit would have been better if they included lights and a small universe. Fortunately, I was able to accomplish this with a small string of Christmas lights, a telescope photo of the stars, black velvet, and a little Photoshop magic:
I easily give this kit 5 out of 5 stars. It was fun to build and looks great.