Along with some stress, there can be joy in not knowing how a plan will come together. The Big-Brained Superhero Depolarization Station began life as an idea for a BBSC fundraiser initiated by our teens who wanted to raise funds by bringing people together around foods from their diverse cultural backgrounds. But because this is The Big-Brained Superheroes Club, we, of course, had to nerd it up. And with our penguin and polar bear robots being the two remaining robots still in progress from our recycled robotic ocean combined with our food and planet-friendly craft ideas, the Depolarization Station is born. But that’s the short version.
The real world is, of course, much more complicated, and as one might infer, persistence and adaptability (along with all the other superpowers) were absolutely vital to the success of this mission. In our recent BBSC Bulletin, we mention just a few of the challenges we faced when preparing for and implementing this event. Here are some of the more technical challenges we managed, starting with the base station itself.
The base station: Our original plan was to try to borrow some sort of utility cart to serve as the base for our mobile operation, but our intended source’s cart was unavailable at this time. Since one of our local salvage stores, Ballard Reuse, was having a 20% off post-Thanksgiving sale, we went in search of, and our eye happened to land on a nifty crate for shipping scientific instruments for $20. With the addition of some hardware we found on the Internet and wheels we had stashed in a cabinet, we now have a rolling cart that can completely come apart, which will be great for future events as well. Our main additional improvements for this station going forward will be bigger (preferably 4+”) wheels (we felt every crack in the sidewalk with our current casters) and a shelf we can insert inside. And if we ever get around to it, maybe we’ll stencil on the BBSC logo just for fun.
The depolarization hood: With rain being a definite possibility for this event, we didn’t want drenched polar bots. So, with a few shipping tubes we had salvaged from a dumpster years ago, some tin cans hot glued to some old pegboard (also from Ballard Reuse from many moons ago), a few zip ties, and some cardboard from shipping and Cheez-it boxes, we had our hood. For decoration, we sprayed it white (in between bouts of rainfall), wrote our superpowers on it in marker, and attached our upcycled plastic water bottle solar-powered light string. The Depolarization Station sign on top was drawn and stenciled by some exceptionally talented Big Buddies. If we needed rain protection, we now had a frame on which to attach it, and as an added bonus, the hood served as the frame from which to hang our polar bear.
The polar bear: Ahhh….polar bear…how you have tormented us! The development of the polar bear alone could fill a blog post, but its challenges essentially boil down to technology failing to work as advertised. Big Brain Thelma, who envisioned the polar bear so very long ago (it was actually the very first ocean robot started!), cut its shape out of cardboard and added packing peanuts for texture, observed polar bear motion using online videos, and with her team, programmed its 4-servo motion using Micro:bit. However, after trying to implement the project with two different Micro:bit motor shields and burning out countless Micro:bits and shields (we still have no idea how/why), we finally gave in and implemented with Arduino. Which worked like a charm. Power was supplied by an old external battery, which very sadly for us, was lost to the streets of Seattle during this event. So, we’ll be searching for a new external battery for all of our mobile robotics needs.
The penguin: The penguin team designed this bot so long ago, but implementation remained elusive with their original penguin form made from recycled cardboard. Essentially, they had no place to put the components so that they would all stick together. So, we re-implemented by forming a large plastic bottle into a penguin body with another plastic container formed into a removable head. Inside the body is a geared LEGO motor connected to Micro:bit via motor shield, powered by 9-volt battery stashed in the head. the penguin waddles with offset LEGO cams as feet. Zip ties keep the unit together. Big Brain Helen did the penguin painting based on an online photo. Teamwork makes penguin robots work.
All this is to say that depolarizing Seattle is a pretty big undertaking, involving quite a few ins, outs, and what-have-yous, all of which are only addressed through intensive superpower exercise and some pretty basic resources. Thanks to:
Ada’s Technical Books
among many others, not to mention Big Brains, Big Buddies, moms, and volunteers, we had the resources we needed to achieve this goal. But there’s always more depolarization to do. If you want Big-Brained Superheroes to continue to build on their accomplishments, please donate today! Nerdiness doesn’t just happen; together, we make it happen.