HOMEBREW My Robosapien in a Can By Dave Prochnow
Harkening back to a day when power source would be acceptable. I substituted a 3V
youngsters called the local dime store and asked, lithium coin cell for the original D-size power pack.
“Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”, I answered Now it was time to cram it all into the tin. The
the call for entries on the Altoids website for the battery and speaker were placed side by side on the
“Tin Million Uses” contest with my modern take on bottom. Next, the main circuit board was insulated
this well-worn prank — Robosapien in a Can. with the tissue liner that comes packaged with each
Attempting to squeeze the 14-inch-tall Robosapien tin of Altoids. I mounted the power switch on the side
into the 1-inch-tall Altoids peppermint tin seemed of the tin, and coiled the microphone on top of the
simple enough. Heck, I’d been hacking the toy for over main circuit board. I was running out of room — fast.
a year. So I was prepared to spend about an hour on Sacrifices had to be made. I removed the touch
this contest entry. Wrong-o, bucko. sensors from the main board, shortened the original
While just slapping the Robosapien’s main circuit wiring, drilled holes in the lid for the LED eye array,
board and speaker inside the tin would have been and fixed the IR receiver to the side of the tin. Most
enough, I wanted to make sure this wasn’t just some regrettably, a new latch had to be installed on the tin.
con job. My Robosapien in a Can would be fully func- But it worked. Even scrunched down and fixed with
tioning, with sensors, speech, and IR remote control. my new copper latch, Robosapien in a Can worked.
I dispatched Robosapien’s outer skin and extracted Did I win the Altoids contest? Nope. But I still had a
the main circuit board and all of the connected sensors wonderful homebrew Robosapien I could leave on
in just under 40 minutes. Ta-dah. my desk and scare the pants off anyone who tried
It doesn’t take much of a robot design genius to to steal one of my curiously strong, high-tech mints.
figure out that four D-size batteries ain’t gonna fit
Dave Prochnow is a frequent contributor to MAKE, Nuts and
inside an Altoids tin. But my Robosapien in a Can Volts, and SERVO magazines, as well as the author of 25 non-
wasn’t going to drive any servomotors, so a smaller fiction books. Dave’s website is at