By Peter Gustafson Development Coordinator
One of the challenges (and joys) of providing a hands-on science center is keeping the exhibits up and running. Our robotic arm (produced by the MRISAR Institute), a very popular exhibit here at SEE, recently needed some attention and it turned out to be a re-occurring problem related to the joystick/controller hardware.
There are a series of micro switches positioned at the directional points (north, south, east, west) for each joystick which, when engaged, activate a series of motors that dictate the movement of the robotic arm. These micro switches have a plastic housing and they are relatively durable. That relative durability is tested here at SEE when exhibits are being manipulated by 80 enthusiastic fourth graders on a daily basis.
This routine maintenance repair became more of a challenge when our usual electrical supply outlet informed us that our current micro switch was discontinued and the replacement model was “unavailable”. It is at these moments when we rely on local businesses like Electronic Surplus Services on Candia Road here in Manchester. They had a similar (not exactly the same, but close enough!) micro switch in stock which is currently being tested for durability by an enthusiastic group of summer campers here at the SEE Science Center.