Vibratron is one of the main RobOrchestra projects for the 2010-2011 year. After receiving $1000 in grant money from the Undergraduate Research Office in the form of a SURG and a donated vibraphone from a former member, the team began designing a robotic Vibraphone.
The overall vision for the project involves laying out the 30 vibraphone keys in a circular array and dropping steel ball bearings onto the keys in order to create music. While other more direct methods might have been more effective, the group opted to create a more unique piece of art.
The project is currently in the prototype stage, but the general layout has been designed. The robot will be composed of three main systems. One of the systems will dispense the balls onto the keys, one will collect the used balls and recycle them to be used again on a different note, and the third system will be the structure of the robot that hold the keys and all other systems together.
The ball dispensing mechanism has been through two complete designs. The initial design used a rotating notched wheel attached to a stepper motor to dispense balls one at a time. The second design used a solenoid as a gate to block and release balls from a queue. Both designs were prototyped, and the solenoid design was chosen because of its greater speed and reliability over the wheel design. Each of the 30 gate mechanisms will cost less than $5.00, and will be capable of dispensing over 14 balls per second. There are renders and photographs of the gate below.
The recirculation mechanism is basically an Archimedes Screw that brings balls from a lower hopper to an upper hopper. Once in the upper hopper, a paintball-style system will be used to spread the ball bearings into the 30 individual tubes, each of which routes to a separate gate.
The structure of the system will not be designed in any detail until the kinks have been worked out of the other two systems. However, a conceptual render of the desired circular layout of the Vibratron is below.
An Arduino Mega will be used to control the robot. A MIDI shield will allow the Arduino to read standard MIDI signals from any controller, and software will decode the MIDI commands into notes.
Each of the 30 gates will have a small custom printed circuit board (PCB) with a MOSFET and LED. This circuit board receives a digital signal from the Arduino and uses that signal to turn on the solenoid for a certain amount of time.
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