If a picture is worth a thousand words, a 45 second video should be worth approximately 1,080,000 words. This video should be a good introduction:
After struggling with what to do with poorly adjusted RC helicopter that had sat in my closet in the guest bedroom for over a year, this was the best idea that I came up with so far. This project really combined several concepts that I used in some other posts such as how easy small wooden boxes, like the one I used in the “even more useless machine” are to come across, and how a RC car can apparently be recycled for just about anything. Using servos remotely and controlling LEDs with the motor output from a helicopter was new for me, so I’m pretty happy with the results.
After I decided to take apart my helicopter, possibly never to be put back together again, it took me a while to figure out what I was going to do with it. Eventually I decided upon some sort of box-head thing similar to what you see here. Having ping-pong balls and LEDs in my garage already made it an easy decision to attempt to make them into eyes that glowed and were could be rotated. I’ve done a post just about making the ping-pong ball eyes for Boxie and another about making a carboard box disguise for it.
As for how the box works, it’s pretty simple really, the helicopter that I took apart had control for four axes. It’s a pretty basic RC helicopter as some have many more controls, but four is enough to work pretty well. There are two regular motor controls, which make the main propeller and tail rotor spin. Additionally, there are two servos that, through an ingenious device known as a “swash plate,” allow the ‘copter to “slide” left, right, forwards or backwards. For my purposes, this meant that I had a servo to control the lid, a servo to control the eye rotation, and two voltage outputs to control two other things.
For the lid, a piece of wood was cut out to hold the servo vertically as shown to the right. A milling machine was used to put a square hole in it and a single tapped 8-32 screw was used to hold the servo in place. Although the helicopter came with miniature servos, full size Hitec “HS-300” servos were used. The electrical connectors are apparently standard and fit well into the receiver, so it wasn’t a problem hooking everything up.
A piece of wood was drilled and tapped for 4-40 screws on the top and a linkage and threaded rod was attached to it. Once everything was in place it was attached to the servo horn with a standard screw. After several times of attaching and detaching this screw for changes, the linkage was cut so that it could simply go on and off of this screw freely.
The other servo axis was used to control the eye rotation using the linkage setup shown below. I eventually added some nails to act as an axes, but as shown here it’s simply screwed to the supporting piece of wood. This wood was cut to be a press fit with the box, so it could simply be slid in and out without any extra work.
As can be seen from the video and the LEDs attached above, one of the rotor axes was used to control the lights inserted into the “eyes.” This worked really well as the Ping Pong balls do a good job of diffusing the light from LEDs. As can be seen in the video, the light can be varied at will with the radio controller. I did another full post on the eyes and how they were set up (I have an idea about how to make them change color), but this should be a good introduction for now.
I also played with using the other motor axis to actually power the original main rotor’s motor to either make it spin or otherwise move. What you see at the end of the video was actually an attempt to make the head spin using the setup seen below.
As I alluded to before, this wheel came from another RC car that I destroyed for my own purposes. This didn’t work quite as well as I wanted, although produced the fun effect of the box flying off for a video. I also tried putting this wheel horizontal. I think this would work, but it needs some better machining than I’ve done so far.
Although this box is functional, I don’t think it’s finished yet. I’ve got quite a few more ideas (like painting it), so check out all the articles about Boxie for more craziness. In the mean time, if you need another box project to keep you entertained, check this one out about an “even more useless box”.
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