Help out an ignorant noob? Please?

Hi all,

After reading some of the forum posts I’ve come to the conclusion that the project I’m trying to undertake is a big step backward for most of you, and I’d appreciate any input/advice/warnings you all might have.

Long story short: Returned from Mouseland with a young daughter who thought that it would be pretty awesome to have a moving pirate down in the basement…and to be honest, I had to agree.

We picked up a skeleton, bashed some pallets, and with some paint and wire we had a shipwrecked Captain with hands at the helm (movement thanks to an oscillating fan motor and some wire). I’ll attach some early pics when I get to my home computer.

It was cool for a while but now we decided to upgrade the Captain to talk and also get some other prop movement while we are at it (crabs, etc.).

After checking out some similar projects on the Net I decided that with the Pololu Maestro, a few servos, 6V battery pack and servo extension cables (combined with Brookshire’s VSA software and a sound editing program) I might be able to achieve this goal.

Question: Will one 6V power source cover the servo movements and controller? Or will moving a jaw and a crab sap too much juice away from the Maestro?

Question: Is anyone aware if the Maestro even works with the VSA software? Is there a comparable Pololu program I am unaware of?

Question: Will I need to always attach my laptop to the controller or does the Maestro hold a programmed routine?

Question: Am I unaware of a crucial component or step?

Thank you


We have a range of projects on this forum, and a lot of times just blinking an LED is a huge challenge! Anyone with a moving skeleton in their basement has nothing to be ashamed of. I would love to see the pictures.


the Maestro can be powered by the same 6V supply that drives the servos, and as long as the voltage does not drop too much below 5V, it will keep running. AAA’s should be good to an amp or two, AA’s to several amps, and so on. Watch out for your servos, though - a 6V NiMH battery might be above 7.5V when fully charged, which could damage servos. I would recommend the regulated 5V adapters that usually come with portable hard drives and ethernet switches these days - they are usually perfect, and you will not have to deal with charging the battery.

It will probably work due to its Mini-SSC compatibility. We do not have the software here, so you should look over the Mini-SSC command set in the user’s guide to be sure.

The Maestro can be programmed using the sequence editor in the Maestro Control Center. Click “Copy sequence to script” and select “Run script on startup”, and the Maestro will automatically do that sequence, no laptop required. VSA is also not necessary if you go this route. You will need to set up your Maestro for self-power, so make sure you have some wires and solder on hand.

Wires and solder? Our premium jumper wires might be useful, depending on how you are wiring things together. I am not sure how crazy you want to get with this, but if you are willing to learn some scripting, I would definitely use a distance sensor or a passive IR detector (needs a pull-up resistor to work with the Maestro) to trigger it whenever someone walks into the basement, and some ShiftBrites for cool lighting effects. One Micro Maestro could control two servos, one sensor, and a chain of however many ShiftBrites you want.


Wow, I appreciate the prompt and highly informative reply!
I didn’t think to go the sensor route, but will definitely incorporate it now.
I’ll toss up pics as I go!
Thanks again.


When I said “ignorant noob” I was not exagerating. It looks like that Sharp distance sensor you linked to is a simple plug-n-play type that would connect to the Maestro via standard jumper wire. Correct ssumption? Because I should have described myself as an ignorant, lazy noob. I don’t want to solder if I don’t have to.
That being said, (and keep in mind my strengths lay in the construction field, not electronics) could I take my 5V wall wart and splice to a “battery pack to board” type connector (without frying things)?

One last thing, the jumper wires seem to max out at 24", how many of these could I link until I need to worry about losing power to the servo at the end of the line(roughly)?

Thanks for your help!

Well, unfortunately I think that you are going to have to solder if you want the Sharp distance sensor hooked up to the Micro Maestro. The same goes for your wall wart or most battery packs. The distance sensors have pins that are a bit too close together for 0.1" female headers to mate with them, and the compatible JST cables that we sell do not have anything at the other end. So you are going to have to connect stranded wire to something if you want to use these parts, and the best way to connect lots of stranded wires is with solder.

I really think that it is worth it to solder up things like that, no matter how lazy you are, since it will save you the trouble caused by unreliable connections.

As for the length of your servo cables, three or four feet will probably be okay, and more might work depending on your setup, how sensitive your servo is to noise, how much power it is drawing, and so on.

All right…I’ll solder. :frowning:
Placing my order tonight and looking forward to jumping in.
Thanks again.