Tag Archives: review

Review: Adafruit ARDX Experimentation Kit for Arduino

5 out of 5 stars

My dad got me an ARDX Experimentation Kit for Arduino for my birthday. I just finished all the 13 experiments and I have to say it is a pretty awesome kit and a good introduction to the Arduino. The kit comes with a variety of input and output components/devices including:

  • 10x Red and 10x Green LEDs
  • 10mm Blue LED
  • 5mm RGB LED
  • Force Sensor
  • DC Motor
  • Hobby Servo
  • Shift Register
  • Piezo Element
  • Pushbuttons
  • Variable Resister/Potentiometer
  • Photo Resister
  • Temp Sensor
  • Relay

Also included are some transistors, resistors, diodes, etc. After you finish going through the experiments this gives you a good head start once you decide to build your own project.

Another bonus to the kit is that is comes with a custom cut piece of clear acrylic to mount the included Arduino and a bread board. There are wiring sheets you can cut out and overlay on the bread board but I didn’t find these necessary.

Code for most of the projects can be found online at the URLs mentioned in the instructions with the exception of the last two experiments. For the RGB LED experiment I could not find the code online and I had trouble with the code printed in the manual. I had to make the color arrays regular variables instead of constants to get the code to work for me. I could not find the force sensor code online either but the code printed in the manual worked and was pretty trivial to enter.

Overall I have to say this is a great kit for someone that would like to learn how to use Arduino to interface with real world devices.

Review: Herbie the Mousebot Kit by Solarbotics

5 out of 5 stars

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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…
Herbie the Mousebot by Solarbotics

… and a handful of components…

Herbie the Mousebot by Solarbotics

You break apart the PC board which serves as a PC board and a body for the mouse which, is pretty cool.

Herbie the Mousebot by Solarbotics

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.

Herbie the Mousebot by Solarbotics

Herbie the Mousebot by Solarbotics

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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.

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Herbie with the photo diode “eyes” installed….

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Herbie just about finished…

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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:

http://downloads.solarbotics.net/PDF/Solarbotics_Herbie_the_Mousebot_Instruction.pdf

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Herbie the Mousebot by Solarbotics

We don’t have much open bare floor in the house and it moves quite fast so it was a bit of a challenge to keep it under control without hitting too much:

The Herbie Kit is well engineered and fun to assemble. I give it five stars and recommend it as a good first robot kit.

Review: Weller WLC100 Soldering Station

5 out of 5 stars

Weller WLC100 Soldering Station

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.

Weller WLC100 Soldering Station

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:

Conical Tip, .031

Narrow SD Tip, .062

Review: RC Wall Climber/Clamber Remote Control Mini Car (Updated)

2 out of 5 stars

RC Wall Climber/Clamber Remote Control Mini Car


Update: Warning

I have received at least one report of a non-working car and the manufacturer has does not seem to have a web site that I can find to get a replacement. I have downgraded my rating to 2 stars accordingly. If you buy one of these make sure you get it from some place you can return it if it doesn’t work.

NeweggMall.com recently sent me an e-mail pushing a wall climbing RC car called the Clamber!!! Master-Hand. It is actually listed under RC Wall Climber Remote Control Mini Car but the name on the box is “Clamber!!! Master-Hand” by Top Race R/C Series. Although similar, this is not the same as the Spinmaster Air Hogs Zero Gravity Micro Cars, which are a bit more expensive. It was cheap and cool enough looking that I naturally felt compelled to give it a try.

How it works

If you are not familiar with these, they have a vacuum inside that holds them to the wall. The four outer visible wheels are actually fake and just look nice. There are two inner wheels that are not visible (unless you flip it over) that sit against the wall and propel the car.

The switch on the back has three different modes: off, on without vacuum, and on with the vacuum. This way if you just want to run it on the floor you don’t have to turn on the vacuum and waste your charge.

The underside has two strips of fabric that sit against the wall to help maintain the vacuum. There are two intake holes on the bottom and 4 slits in the windows on top for the air output.

The car itself looks pretty cool although the fake tires are a little less than authentic. It comes in three colors: Red, Black, and Blue.

Performance

The car does not go too fast but fast enough. It drives similar to a tank because it is actually only using two wheels. To steer, it changes the speed of the wheel on the appropriate side. While you are driving the turn radius is not precise and tends to be a bit large. When you are stopped it will turn on a dime.

As power starts to run down, the vacuum does not hold the car as tightly to the wall as a full charge so sometimes the drives wheels will start to slip and you have to turn around and go in a different direction to get moving again.

Run time on the wall is about 7 minutes although performance slopes off and the car will start loosing its traction around 4 minutes. Even after 7 minutes the vacuum was still strong enough to keep the car on the wall. I didn’t time it but I am guessing run time on the floor without the vacuum on would be quite a bit longer. When you get close to 8 minutes the power will cut off before the battery is drained too far. It uses a built in Lithium-Polymer battery which is probably why a charge last as long as it does for something so light. Charge time is about 10 minutes.

Here are some pros and cons:

Pros

  • Pretty good amount of drive time per charge (about 7 minutes)
  • Only a 10 minute charge
  • Can rotate on a dime while stopped
  • Fun!

Cons

  • It will get stuck on even flat, clean surfaces occasionally after the battery has run down a bit.
  • The turn radius between running and when it is stopped is quite different. When it is stop it turns on a dime. When it is running it has a very wide turn radius in some cases.
  • IR controller does not perform well under strong light.

Conclusion

Overall I rate the wall climber 3 out of 5 stars. I would give it more stars if the steering were a bit more consistent and it didn’t get “stuck” as often. Overall it was pretty fun but I would say the Microfly is a bit more entertaining just because for about the same price or less, it flies around and that is hard to beat in my opinion.

Images

RC Wall Climber Clamber Remote Control Mini Car

RC Wall Climber/Clamber Remote Control Mini Car

RC Wall Climber/Clamber Remote Control Mini Car

RC Wall Climber/Clamber Remote Control Mini Car

RC Wall Climber/Clamber Remote Control Mini Car

RC Wall Climber/Clamber Remote Control Mini Car

RC Wall Climber/Clamber Remote Control Mini Car Charging

Video

Review: Senario NRG MicroFly RC Hovering UFO

3 out of 5 stars

Senario NRG MicroFly RC Hovering UFO

In a previous post I talked about the Senario Alien Microfly a bit and in this post I will provide a full review. I gave a few units to some of my family for Christmas so I have flight reports from them as well.

The Senario Alien Microfly kit comes with a transmitter and the Microfly itself. The transmitter takes 6 “AA” batteries and also serves as the charger for the Microfly. It is pretty small (see the pictures below) and a lot of fun to fly around the house or office.

I put in many, many flights. Each flight is about 5 minutes with a 15-20 charge time. The cats gave it a few taste tests but mostly they like to just stalk it as it flies around the living room. ;) I bought 5 of these for myself and my family for Christmas and all of them worked out of the box. Here is a list of pros/cons:

Pros

  • It is simple to fly. There is only one control to make it go up or down so you don’t need a lot of experience.
  • Cheap. You will probably find it for $25 or less.
  • Durable. You can’t sit or step on it (it is mostly just foam board) but mine has been through many crashes and even survived a few taste tests by the cats.
  • The flight time is about 5 minutes which I think is pretty good for something so small.

Cons

  • In very large rooms (gym/church/wharehouse) it can quickly get out of range if it doesn’t have walls for the IR signal to bounce off of.
  • After running through three or four sets of “AA” batteries (rechargable) flight times have fallen off quite a bit although I did get many flights on each set of batteries
  • Fragile. Although it can withstand being bounced off a few walls it is very small and made of foam so you don’t want to leave it someplace where it will be sat/stepped on.
  • No directional flight. It only goes up and down.
  • Charge time is kind of high… about 15-20 minutes per flight

Conclusion

Overall I give the Microfly 3 out of 5 stars. I would easily rate it higher if it maintained its power after extended use. I don’t know if the built in battery has just been recharged too many times or if the motor is reaching the end of it’s life since it is so tiny and spins at such high RPMs. Despite this, I would say it is easily worth the price and would recommend it to anyone that enjoys RC toys.

Images

Senario NRG MicroFly RC Hovering UFO

Senario NRG MicroFly RC Hovering UFO

Video

Note: If you don’t see a video click here.