When making prototypes, I often “kit bash” broken toys to harvest useful components like motors, gear trains, or radio-control transmitters and receivers. No need to reinvent the wheel — literally!
SmartLab’s new toy robot, ReCon 6.0 Programmable Rover, is a tempting hack. Open it up and you’ll find lots of cool stuff inside, including a nifty dual-motor drive module with built-in optical wheel counters.
Here’s a “noninvasive hack” that takes advantage of ReCon’s cool features while adding a fun new function to make a “Root Beer Pong Bot.”
I wanted to add a sensor to control ReCon in real time. Fortunately the toy’s nonvolatile memory retains your program even when the batteries are removed. So I used this feature to add a kill switch: a thin, double-sided contact that slips in between the batteries and ReCon’s battery contacts. This “power stealer” circuit works with a cup-mounted single-pole single-throw (SPST) micro lever switch that normally routes the power right back to ReCon — but if the switch is closed, power goes only to a bulb. When you toss a ball into the cup (à la Beer Pong), ReCon stops in its tracks and the bulb lights up — that’s a “kill.”
Next I created a simple program that turns ReCon into a moving target game.
As it follows a programmed path across the floor, it also plays a series of sound messages announcing an ever-decreasing point jackpot. The sooner you “kill” ReCon by tossing the ball into the cup, the higher your score!
Here’s the code sheet for the game program I wrote. Each numbered box is a step in ReCon’s instructions. ReCon beeps, announces the game and 10 points, turns around (so that he presents the cup to you), backs up, stops to announce 75 points, turns and backs up, turns and backs up again, stops and announces 50 points, turns and backs twice again, then if you haven’t yet gotten the ball in the cap and triggered the kill switch, Recon blows his horn and announces you lost, as he does a victory dance to a dance beat.
What kind of game program can you create? Can you use the LOOP command and HOME command to make a more elegant routine?
And when you’re done with this noninvasive hack, just slip the wires out from the battery compartment, and your toy is back to original factory condition!