What’s fun, cheap, good looking, and cleans a hardwood floor with an advanced search and navigation algorithm?
An electrostatic dust mop attached to a radio-controlled car. Vroom!
This combination has some things in common with a Roomba, but is arguably less expensive. It’s quick and fun to build, and quick and fun to operate.
Our starting point was a $15 radio controlled Lamborghini Gallardo from our local (and strangely enough, haunted) toysaurus. (Speaking of which, isn’t this a great looking police car? )
The second major component is the business end of an electrostatic dust mop, such as a Swiffer, or the equivalent model from 3M that we’re using here.
Construction is pretty straightforward: Figure out a way to attach the dust mop to the car!
Let’s get started by taking the body off of the car. Thankfully, everything is held together by screws. After removing the body, take a look at the front end of the chassis (the right side in the photos) and try to find a place where we can begin to attach a mount to the dust mop end.
It turns out that there’s a neat little ledge– with a screw hole even– right by the front bumper. So, we’ll build a little plank to hold the dust mop that attaches to that screw hole.
I built the mop-support plank from a blank printed circuit board. (You can use a piece of metal or plastic for this, but I happen to have these lying around!) Blank PCBs are a good construction material because they are (1) cheap, (2) very strong and light fiberglass-epoxy composite, (3) flame retardant, (4) easy to cut to shape, (5) often supplied with holes in them, and (6) ready to be soldered.
I added one hole to match the screw hole on the ledge, as well as six holes to mount the mop end. I also had to trim the outline a bit to fit the plank onto the ledge. (Your car may vary.)
Later, once you’ve tested the working RC dust mop and are sure that the plank is in the correct location, you can add additional screws and/or superglue to hold it in place more securely.
Put the body of the car back on the chassis, and attach the mop end. I used a pair of cable ties to attach the short mop handle to the circuit-board plank. To adjust the height, I put in a little balsa wood spacer beneath the mop handle.
Okay, so let’s try it out!
As you can see in the video, it’s very fast, but the steering is awkward. Fixing that is a matter of adjusting the position of the mop face so that it drags on the ground a little more evenly.
And does it work, i.e., does it clean up the dust on the floor? Hell yeah!
Here is the Dust collection apparatus with some of the dust that it’s collected, shown with one of the common varieties of artificial artificial intelligence control system that we use to control the RC car. This particular variety of control system has considerably more processing power and memory than most presently-available microcontrollers, and is somewhat easier to program.