As a first attempt at this, to see if this idea had any merit, I built little device consisting of a solenoid mounted on top of a servo. The solenoid is this one, driven much like this, with a TIP 120 and 2k2 resistor. I used a 12V supply. The servo is this one. There is a simple Arduino program to control it. It rotates the servo to a random angle, sends a short pulse to the solenoid and then waits for a little while:
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// Randomly set servo position, then fire, then delay. #include
You can see an example of it in action here. I am assisted in this video by my chief test engineer. The mechanical construction is a prototype: I used a couple of paperclips to hold the solenoid to the servo's disc, and slipped a piece of cardboard under the solenoid to make a platform for the piece of kibble. It will fire the kibble 2-3 feet.
Several things need to change. First, I think I need a solenoid with a longer travel or a higher acceleration, to fire the kibble further. A smoother launching platform, say a piece of rigid PVC tubing, would help. Next, I need a way of loading pieces of kibble onto the firing platform automatically. I will aim to address this in a future version.
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