MiniSADbot - Outdoor Edition




About: I'm an enginerd, author, and teacher.

This miniSADbot was created for the Kickstarter backers who supported the original SADbot exhibit that Ben Leduc-Mills and I created.  Thank you!  Here you will learn what to do with the kit of parts we sent you.  If you didn't back the project but still want to make one, a full parts list is included.  There's not much to it so it's an easy first solar project. 

Step 1: Gather Materials

Shopping List:
  • small DC toy motor like the CAT# DCM-368 from shown here
  • small solar cell like the CAT# SPL-61 from shown here
  • some wire - ideally red and black
  • a 4.5" x 4.5" piece of cardboard
  • 2 markers or pens
You'll also need a soldering iron and some solder.

Step 2: Solder Wires to Solar Cell

Use tape, glue, or putty to hold the two longer lengths of wire (red and black) onto the thin metal strips on the back of the solar cells.  CAREFULLY solder each side - the strips are very fragile!  The black wire goes on the side marked - in black permanent marker, and red on the other.*

*It doesn't actually matter what wire color goes where in this case.  However, it's standard to use black for negative/ground/- and red for positive/power/+  and will matter in other solar projects.  So, it's good to get in the habit.

Step 3: Solder Wires to Motor

Take two short lengths of wire and solder them onto the metal tabs on the motors.  Use the holes in the tabs to first stick the wires through and bend them so they stay put while you solder.

Step 4: Create the Base

If you're building this from the kit, you already have the base done.  If not, use the template here (made in Inkscape) or just cut a 4.5" x 4.5" piece of cardboard with X marks for the pens/markers and a cut out for the motor. 

Step 5: Final Assembly and Soldering

Stick two pens or markers into the X marks so about a 1/2 inch sticks out the bottom.  Then stick the motor in, shaft down, until it sticks out the same amount.  The markers and motor should fit snugly, but feel free to reinforce with duct tape or glue. 

Now place the solar cell on the cardboard base.  Twist the end of each wire coming from the solar cell together with the matching color wire coming off the motor.  Then solder this twisted connection. 

Now take it outside!  This setup will only work in direct sunlight - hence the name miniSADbot:  short for Seasonally Affected Drawing robot (named after a mood disorder of the same name).  Experiment with different marker colors, putting something on the motor shaft to create different swooping patterns, etc.  Watch a video of one in action here



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    7 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I think this could be greatly improved by adding a simple description of what people are looking at, rather than telling people to "look at the video" or "go read the website."


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    See the link to the video below to see it in action. The miniSADbot is a miniature Seasonally Affected Drawing robot - based off of the installation Ben Leduc-Mills and I did at Eyebeam which is also a project from my book. It only draws when sunlight hits the solar cell. When it does, the motor will spin, sending miniSADbot into a spinning frenzy and causing it to draw with its two marker legs.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    use a battery and make it draw an infinite circle!!! (well, if the battery would never die)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Just a quick question: in a sentence, what is a miniSADbot?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! There's a video in the flickr set here: