22 December 2015

Build A Mini Remote-Controlled Snowplow


By Dave Prochnow

When a pile of snow falls overnight, the last thing you want to do is wake up early to shovel the sidewalk. With a radio-controlled snowplow, you won’t need to. It does the work while you sip your morning coffee.

Photograph by Sam Kaplan
RC Snow Plow
To make sure your plow will have sufficient muscle, start with the rugged Warden Robot Kit from Actobotics. Add a sealed gel-cell battery, electrically joined drive motors, and a shovel blade assembled from 3-D-printed parts. Steer your vehicle over the driveway using the remote, and you’re ready for total winter domination—from the comfort of the indoors.

WARNING: Water and electricity shouldn’t mix. Use waterproof tape to keep snow out of the plow’s main compartment.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2016 issue of Popular Science, under the title “Scoop Snow from the Comfort of Home.”

Stats

  • Time: 2 hours
  • Cost: $389
  • Difficulty: Medium to hard

Tools

  • Hex keys (7/64, 9/64, and 3/32)
  • Soldering iron
  • Wire cutter/stripper
  • 3-D printer and filament
  • Electrical tape

Materials

Materials can be purchased from Servo City, All Electronics, and Mouser Electronics.
  • Warden Robot Kit (No. 637144)
  • Four gearmotor boards (No. 605118)
  • 10 feet of 20-gauge red/black zip cord (No. WRB-20 from All Electronics)
  • One pair alligator clips (No. BUKM2040)
  • Pololu TReX Jr dual-motor controller (No. 605058)
  • On/off toggle switch (No. 103-0132-EVX from Mouser Electronics)
  • Two-or four-channel transmitter/receiver radio-control system (e.g., Tactic TTX410)
  • Four 12-inch male-to-male JST connectors (No. 607006)
  • Four gearmotor end caps (No. 9753K86)
  • Two 12-inch servo extension cables (No. MM2212S)
  • 31 ½-inch-by-6-32 socket-head cap screws
  • 31 6-32 nylock nuts
  • 12-volt 5 AH gel-cell battery (No. GC-125 from All Electronics)
  • 12-volt DC 500 mAh battery charger

Instructions

  1. Assemble the Warden Robot Kit according to the Actobotics instructions.

    Dave Prochnow
    The Assembled Warden Robot Kit
  2. Solder a gearmotor board to each motor.

    Dave Prochnow
    RC Snow Plow - Wiring Diagram
  3. Separate a 2-foot length of black wire from the zip cord. Solder a black alligator clip to one end. Strip and insert the other end into the GND terminal of the TReX Jr.
  4. Separate two 2-foot lengths of red wire from the zip cord. For one red wire, solder a red alligator clip to one end and connect the other end to the on/off switch.

    Dave Prochnow
    Red Wire Connected To On/Off Switch
  5. For the other red wire, solder one end to the switch, and strip and insert the opposite end into the positive 12-volt terminal of the TReX Jr.
  6. Route the two servo extensions from the CH1 and CH2 headers of TReX Jr to, respectively, the CH2 and CH3 outputs of the R/C receiver.

    Dave Prochnow
    The CH2 and CH3 Outputs of the R/C Receiver
  7. Calibrate the TReX Jr. according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  8. Snip one set of plugs off the end of each JST connector and strip the ends. Plug the remaining JST connectors into the four gearmotor boards. Reverse the polarity of the connectors in the rear gearmotors. Then slip gearmotor caps over each motor.

    Dave Prochnow
    Gearmotor Cap Over Motor
  9. Twist the stripped ends of the two left motors together, red to red and black to black, and insert the joined ends into the M1 terminals of TReX Jr.
  10. Twist the stripped ends of the two right motors together, and insert the ends into the M2 terminals.

    Dave Prochnow
    TReX Jr with Wires from Motors
  11. Print the six main and two side shovel blade parts, using these STL files.
  12. Fasten the shovel blade parts to the front aluminum channel bumper of the Warden with the socket-head cap screws and nylock nuts.

    Dave Prochnow
    Front Bumper with Shovel Blade Parts
  13. Charge the battery, if needed.
  14. Mount the on/off switch to the rear aluminum channel bumper. Make sure the switch is off.
  15. Slip the alligator clips onto the battery terminals.

    Dave Prochnow
    Alligator Clips on Battery Terminals
  16. Put battery, wires, and electronics into the main compartment, and apply water-resistant electrical tape over all openings.
  17. Turn on the switch, and test the speed control and directional drive of each motor. Now you’re ready to kick back and show the snow who’s boss.

    Dave Prochnow

Built your own mini snowplow? We want to see it! Send your photos and videos to manual@popsci.com.



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