RFID Door Robot Build (or, Why should I join a makerspace?)

RFID Door Robot Build (or, Why should I join a makerspace?)

A few weeks ago, we put the finishing touches on our project for adding RFID to our building that didn’t involve modification of the existing door (or at least, minimal modification) and maintained the egress requirements for the door. This blog post was going to be a break-down of how the system worked and how we went about designing it.  However, over the course of designing and building the project, something more interesting became apparent. We’ll still go into some detail about how it works (and all the code and such is available further down), but here’s that story.

The project started with this:

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A drawbridge model salvaged from our local university’s surplus store, and over the course of a week or two of design and construction, transformed into this:

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We often talk at Lansing Makers Network about how the community that a makerspace creates is what everyone really appreciates and that the tools and equipment are really bait (admittedly, really cool bait) to get those people into the makerspace to create that community.  This project is a great example of how that community benefits from one another. Nearly every member of LMN contributed in some way, large or small, to the completion of this project. (Admittedly we were only a dozen or so members strong at this point, but hear us out.)

The power window motor was salvaged from the surplus drawbridge that [Joe] dropped off at the space. In the course of trying to pull parts and construct the new enclosure, [Carl] taught us how to use the metal lathe to machine some shafts and parts. (Incidentally, if you haven’t taken the opportunity to use a metal lathe, DO IT. It’s pretty epic as tools go.)

Now, we needed to stop the motor when it reached the end of its travel, so [Tim] dropped off a couple limit switches left over from the laser cutter build. But, we couldn’t quite figure out how to mount those switches in the enclosure [Brian] (that’s me) had created. That’s when [Jody] brought in his teeny-tiny jewelry tools and screws and managed to fashion a mount for them that worked perfectly.

Next it was on to the electronics to control the whole thing. [Nick] had worked with RFID on the Arduino before, so he tackled writing the code to authenticate users. We ran the schematic by [Mike] who works as an electrical engineer by day and tweaked it per his recommendations. A few more days of prototyping, wiring, and installing, and [Nick] and I had the whole thing up and running.

This is where makerspaces excel. Our project didn’t start with a team of a dozen people meeting regularly to coordinate the build—the process of collaboration was completely adhoc because it occurred in an open forum where other makers could walk by and say, “How’s that project coming?”.  Giving us the perfect opportunity to say, “Actually, we’re kind of stuck on this part.  What do you think?”

The point is, if you’re wondering what a makerspace has to offer you and you’re thinking, “I don’t need this tool or that tool”, consider what you’re really joining is a community of people with access to what you need most for your next project: knowledge and experience.  And, making yourself available to that community only helps further that resource. Its like the Wikipedia of real life, and everything else here is just the lure that pulls us together.

Arduino code for the project is available on Github: https://github.com/lansing-makers-network/ArduinoDoorLock

Schematics are available on Upverter: https://upverter.com/wreality/7411d3812e7a6f01/Door-Controls/