Robot Race and Nitinol Lightswitch Instructions – Make: Podcast

Robot Race and Nitinol Lightswitch Instructions – Make: Podcast

This weekend it’s time for a robot race! Put together some robots and race them for fun.


I started this week by learning about nitinol, which is a shape changing metal alloy made up of nickel and titanium. I did some brainstorming. What could you do with a wire that I can activate to make it 4% shorter? I decided on a lightswitch activator. I hooked up one side of the battery to the nitinol wire and then put a switch between the battery and the other side of the wire so that when I turn on the switch it feeds electricity to the nitinol wire and heats it up. The heat makes it contract and pull the lightswitch down. In the picture you can see that I put a dowel there to hold the waire away from the switch. Although not actually useful, this lightswitch activator looks really cool and was fun to make. What kinds of applications can you think up for this material? Then I put together Stiquito Controlled, which is a book/kit about making a nitinol controlled robot.


As you can see in the video, the kit went together well. The tricky part is tuning the nitinol strands that are thinner than thread. You have to get them to just the right tension to get the little bug-like robot to move. It doesn’t move fast but it gets extra points for style for moving without any motors or gears.

In order to have a robot race you’ve got to have two robots right? Luckily I dug around the make labs and found the inch-bot, a simple robot aimed at a younger audience than Stiquito. It was easy to put together.


I like kits because they give me a chance to learn by doing and then I can change them, break them, or turn the results into something else or use them for another application. We’ve got a lot of new kits in the makezine store. If you’ve got a favorite little robot, contraption, or something you’ve made recently, please put it into the Make flickr photo pool.


Now go put some cool contraptions together and race. On your marks, get set, GO!

Click here to download the PDF – Link.

2 thoughts on “Robot Race and Nitinol Lightswitch Instructions – Make: Podcast

  1. AP says:

    Is Bre ever going to tell us about the software he ended up using to drive DrawBot? For the original posting he was asking for help with software suggestions, and the follow up was video and pdfs of finished output, but we never heard how he got there.

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