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Topic: The Santa Claw (Read 4548 times) previous topic - next topic


Hi Everybody. So here's what we've been working on at Real Art. With an Arduino Mega, 5 refrigerator switches, 4 cameras, 3 motor controllers, 3 wheelchair motors, 2 power supplies, an actuator and an ultrasonic sensor we set out to make the worlds largest claw machine. Not only that... You drive it over the internet! The machine itself is 17' long x 8' wide x 12' high. There's an awesome flash site behind it to handle the long line of people queuing up to play it. If you want to check it out in action go to http://www.thesantaclaw.com and give it a shot.

This was our first big project with an Arduino, we typically write Flash and .Net sites, so this way pretty far out of our wheel house but having no knowledge or training of any sort wasn't going to stop us! Now on to how this puppy works.

We decided to use wheelchair motors because you can pick up some cheap used ones on E-bay. We used two for forward/backward, left/right and a third one to drop and raise the claw. We put switches on each point of the chassis that the motors should stop. When a switch is hit, the motor is stopped. We drop the claw on a timer and have another switch at the top that stops it from raising too far. After we had this thing moving around it was time to figure out how to pick up stuff. We use a 4" actuator to open the claw arms and springs on the hinges to pull them back together.

Now this thing is moving, dropping, raising, opening and closing the claw arms. Since your game is over after you drop the claw it's time to figure out how to get it back to the chute,  open the claw arms, and detect if a prize came out. Easy enough to get it back over the chute, just go left and backwards until both switches are contacted and stop. You're over the chute, open the actuator. To detect if there was actually a winner, we picked up an ultrasonic sensor. So when we start opening the claw arms, we start reading it repeatedly for a few seconds. If it reads anything lower than the distance to the wall you have a winner, if the timer expires with just the base reading you've got a loser.

That's pretty much the extent of the Arduino stuff. All communication comes to the Arduino through a serial connection for an AIR app using a serial proxy. The AIR app manages the queue and handles the commands being sent from flash clients over the web. Depending on your connection there's hardly any latency. But don't take my word for it, check it out. Here are a few pictures of the process.



Very pro - great build!


I think the idea is neat, and the execution impressive, but what I do wonder about is why you created the shield? There doesn't seem to be much need for the effort it took, considering everything else is hooked up point-to-point?

Was it just a learning experience on how to make a PCB (nothing wrong with that)?

Finally - was this a project meant to be installed somewhere (for a client or buyer)? Is it portable?

I can't imagine building something like this (large and likely costing a fair bit of money - wheelchair motors, even on ebay, aren't exactly a dime-a-dozen) for the heck of it on a whim; is there an ultimate purpose?

Or is it one of those kinds of projects where you hope someone will buy it just so you don't have to store it long-term (I'm sure someone will - heck, I bet my boss would love to own it)?
I will not respond to Arduino help PM's from random forum users; if you have such a question, start a new topic thread.


Hi cr0sh. We really just created the shield for the button resistors. Could have just used a perf board for that, but we'd never printed a board and it sounded like fun :). It was meant to be set up in the cafe at our building but the whole thing can be taken down and reassembled in a few hours in case we want to move it at some point. Our company tries to do something cool every year around the holiday season, and this was it for 2010. The ultimate purpose is really just to make something awesome, push our limits and give people something cool to do online. We don't have any ultimate plans for it. We're just going with the flow right now and having as much fun watching people play as they're having trying to win.


A minor issue I have with the queue system, currently the queue is full (that'll happen, no big deal)

But there is a pop up that blocks a portion of the view telling you that the queue is full, the only available button is try again, which tries, then pops back up (eventually of course you'll get in, but anyway yea :()


hey, I've been playing your claw game for more than a week and it's impressive :D I just wanted to ask if you will maybe share some of it's tech side :p

What type and power of motors did you use? And do you have any schematics or good links of the PCB boards for the motors control system? :)

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