Get Really Basic With Steppers And Eight Buttons

[Kevin Darrah] put together a good video showing how to control a stepper motor with, not a motor driver, but our fingers. Taking the really low-level approach to do this sort of thing gave us a much better understanding about the features of our stepper driver chips. Such as, for example, why a half step needed twice the current to operate.

[Kevin] starts with the standard explanation of coils, transistors, and magnets that every stepper tutorial does. When he hooks up simple breadboard with passives and buttons, and then begins to activate the switches in sequence is when we had our, “oh,” moment. At first even he has trouble remembering the correct sequence, but the stepper control became intuitive when laid out with tactile switches.

We set-up our own experiment to see if we remembered our lessons on the subject. It was a fun way to review what we already knew, and we learned some more along the way. Video after the break.

21 thoughts on “Get Really Basic With Steppers And Eight Buttons

  1. This is really cool. The first thing that comes to mind, is it would be awesome to make a sort of Simon game. The motor would be geared up so that each step moved the pin more dramatically (or use a stepper with a lot less steps). There would be a controller like Arduino that could move the pin, to different positions, and the player would have to replicate it by pressing the buttons to make the pin match the movements. There could be one version where some LEDs near the buttons match up, so you could play the game like normal, or you’d have to use both memory and knowledge of steppers to move it to the right place to keep going in the game and win. (Anyone can take this idea and run with it, I’m probably too lazy to build something like this myself.)

    1. That sounds fun, and tedious. But if we’re involving arduino, I say use any stepper motor that is sized to fit the job, it can be programmed to act as if it has as many or few “steps” as the difficulty level dictates.

      There’s taking the idea.

      Here’s running with it:
      I say we ditch the stepper, and use a 3-phase brushless motor, and replace the push buttons with 3 pressure sensitive pads. The harder you press on a pad, the more energy is applied to the corresponding phase. The motor will spin up to a precise RPM, and then you have to duplicate it for a sustained amount of time to accumulate enough points to beat the high score.

      1. Replace the 3-phase with a flamethrower and the RPM with the height of the flame, and you have a Burning Man art installation. It could be turned into a team game by using a see-saw that you need to keep in balance at the right angle to shoot the fire.

          1. Replace the flame thrower with a shotgun aimed at the players face filled with salt and the stepper with a string connected to the triger and penis. Then show the player porn…. Too far?

  2. This is great – as a teacher, I think I’d build it with toggle switches labeled with coil graphics for polarity of the coils and an “apply power” pushbutton for each coil so that the student wouldn’t have to remember which button sequence to push and to give a more intuitive grasp of the concepts, but it’s an excellent layout – I may have to put one together just to mess around with.

  3. Heh, reminds me of how I learned how to do it, took apart a harddrive and poked it’s motor with a 9V until I got it to twitch. After a short while I figured out how to turn. Fun stuff!

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