Programmers' Pain
22Jun/112

Offtopic #1: The Useless Machine

Useless MachineDo you sometimes have the feeling that whenever you go one step forward someone pushes you immediately back to your starting position? Someone who is so persistent that whatever you do you have no chance to get any further? A desperate battle where only one person will be the loser: You! You fell me? Yes? So than say Hello to the Useless Machine which incorporates all of this in a little black plastic box.

As soon as I’ve seen the Useless Machine Bundle at the solarbotics.com webpage I had no chance to withstand any longer. I had to get my hands on this assembly kit. After a bit searching the net I’ve found an offer at Watterott electronic GmbH, a German electronics shop, for a fair price. The kit contains all parts needed to build your own Useless Machine which is based on the original version of SaskView as explained in detail on his Instructables.com article.

Useless Machine Bundle contents

Useless Machine Bundle contents

The offered bundle of Solarbotics contains several black laser-cutted acrylic pieces to construct the box out of them as well as all the needed electronic parts. The acrylic parts of the box are held together using T-Slot joints which simplifies the box construction a lot. The actual magic of the Useless Machine consists of an electric-motor with an attached gearbox, a double-pole, double-throw on/off switch, a hidden limit switch, some wires and a battery pack to power the whole thing. Therefore the wiring is very simple since the motor is directly powered by those two switches without any magic parts in between.

Useless Machine Electronics

Useless Machine Electronics

The only slightly disappointing part is how the two top lids are mounted on the bottom box. The manual suggest to use Tesafilm / Scotch Tape to stick both lids against the bottom box so that they can be opened. This somewhat ruins the sleek look of the box from my point of view. Some sort of hinge would look way better on it. To stabilize the on/off switch lid I’ve taped it also in the inside to the bottom box so that it can’t be opened any more. Also the finger consisting out of two identical pieces mounted together with some screws at the motor mount tends to split up when it hits the on/off switch. I’ve instant-glued the two finger pieces together so that they safely hit the on/off switch now.

Nevertheless the Useless Machine Bundle offered by Solarbotics.com is worth the money since you get your own Useless Machine within 1 1/2h – 2h construction time. Also the construction itself is pretty straight forward and the needed soldering is reduced to a minimum. And most important: Once you’ve build it you can’t stop pressing that on/off switch…

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  1. Greate Article. I am serching for the same electronic kit in germany. Found that one: http://www.ozhobbies.eu/roboter/elektronik-bausatz/useless-machine-elektronik-bausatz/ – Is this the same? It looks somehow different to your model.


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