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BEAM Assemblies
Built up stuff

A number of components you'll need for a BEAM robot are built up from smaller parts; many of these assemblies can be built up easily. In some cases (solar engines), this is the only way to procure the component; in other cases (motor drivers, sensors), "rolling your own" can save you money, at the cost of a bit of your time.

In any event, these are some components you can easily build:

Motor drivers
Motor drivers are essentially small amplifiers, and turn a control signal into a higher-current signal, suitable for driving a larger motor. These are often integrated into a project's circuitry, but I prefer to build them up as a discrete component (this makes life easier if you "let the smoke out").

Most interesting BEAM projects require some sensors in order to give the "critter" interesting interactive behaviors. These range from simple contact sensors, to acoustic proximity sensors, and generally must be built up (there just aren't a lot of off-the-shelf robotic sensors available).

Solar engines
Solar engines are used like little power "savings accounts" -- solar power is stored until it reaches a useable level, then the power is released to drive a (cyclic) "burst" of robotic activity. Often a solar engine is an integral part of a project; you can also, though, build it up as a separate part, and then attach it to your project (this makes it easier to incrementally test your creation as you build it).

The "wobbler"...

Geared motors
Many BEAM projects require a DC motor with a geared output (i.e., a motor with attached gear train, so that the ultimate output shaft rotates at about 40 - 50 RPM). I list these as parts since you can buy them directly (but they're not generally cheap); you can save some money by building one up.

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Page author: Eric Seale
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