It’s been a long time coming, but I finally built a robot using the 14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot Kit by OWI. I’m not sure I will make my way through all 14, but I decided to start with what looked to be the simplest one first: the Wheel-bot. (Note: I now also realize that I could have been subconsciously swayed by the fact that the Wheel-bot is also the one on the cover of the kit’s box. I didn’t realize that until now.)
Living up to it’s unimaginative name, the Wheel-bot is a simple front wheel-driven, four-wheeled robot. The rear wheels are simply the included 3 cm diameter, plastic wheel rims with thin, rubber o-ring “tires” on them. The larger front wheels are 9 cm in diameter and were constructed by snapping four hard plastic semi-circular pieces together. The axles for the front wheels connect directly to the left and right output shafts of the gearbox. Although there is an additional gear at this connection, its sole purpose is to join the the three yellow axles of the wheel to the single gearbox output shaft. The gear itself is not part of the drive chain.
Outside of the head and the gearbox, this is the first time I assembled anything using the the modular pieces that were meant to be the main building blocks of the different robots this kit includes instructions for. Overall, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Even without text, the instructions remain easy to follow. The pieces fit together well, the pins provided a satisfying snap when inserted, and the connections are very stable. As a matter of fact, I will be using a pair of needle nose pliers to remove them, when I finally take this guy apart. (Note: If I had any fingernails they would probably suffice for pin removal.)
The final robot did not exceed my expectations in regards to complexity, all he does is move in a vague semblance of a straight line after all, but I am more than satisfied with his sturdiness considering the cheap price of this kit. He didn’t lose any parts at all as he rolled back and forth up the bumpy sidewalk. Speaking of rolling, I was also surprised how quickly he moved. I had been seriously wondering if the small solar cell could provide enough power and if the tiny motor could provide enough torque to allow him to do anything but slowly lurch along. It turns out that I had nothing to fear as you can see him roll happily along in the video below.
Here are some pictures of the completed Wheel-bot. As cute as he is, I expect to be disassembling him soon so that I can build one of his kin.