The Mechanics of Robotics: Using Motors, Solenoids, and Other Devices in Kinetic and Robotic Art

A two session introduction to the wide world of motors and mechanical systems suitable for use in kinetic and robotic artworks. We'll cover the basic motor and solenoid types, including AC, simple DC, DC gearhead, stepper and hobby servo. We'll play with examples of each type of motor and talk about which ones are suitable where. We'll look at some basic mechanical parts and systems like shaft collars, slip rings, gears, belts, pulleys, etc. We'll also talk about sourcing components, creative reuse of found materials, material selection, building for durability, etc. This class will not go in depth on motor control or electronics but will mostly focus on the electro-mechanical side of robotics.

As with any topic of this complexity, you're not going to learn all you need to know in this workshop. Our goal is to get you familiar with some vocabulary, basic ideas, and techniques, and hopefully give you confidence that you can figure and experiment your way through the problems you will inevitably confront. When we're done the next step is to just dive in and start cranking away. The best way to learn is by doing!

Required materials:

work clothes that you don't mind getting dirty, safety glasses

Recommended materials:

an old electro-mechanical device (printer, scanner, fax machine, blender, something that moves!) for sacrifices, charged 12v batter (~5 amp hours - email if you have questions about what to get), soldering iron, small hand tools (snips, screw drivers, etc.)

I will bring a variety of motors and whatnots to play with.





books on mechanisms/interfacing/shop skills

Physical Computing by O'Sullivan & Igoe
Robot Builder's Bonanza by McComb and Predko
507 Mechanical Movements by Henry T. Brown
Machine Shop Essentials by Frank M. Marlow
Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Sourcebook (3rd Edition) by Sclater, N., Chironis, N.P. (free PDF text!)
Welding Essentials by William L. Galvery
The Woodworkers Visual Handbook by Jon Arno
The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide by Monona Rossol

websites for spending $$$

Herbach and Rademan: surplus motors, mechanical components, power supplies
All Electronics: surplus electronics, small motors, batteries
McMaster-Carr: new mechanical components, tools
Lots more at the bottom of this page: