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By attaching a small fire extinguisher to your robot, you can have the automaton put out the fires it detects. Obviously, you ll want to make sure that the fire detection scheme you ve put into use is relatively free of false alarms and that it doesn t overreact in nonfire situations. Having your robot rush over to one of your guests and put out a cigarette he just lit is not only bad manners, it s potentially embarrassing. It s a good idea to use a clean fire extinguishing agent for your fire-fighting bot. Halon is one of the best such agents, but, alas, the stuff is known to punch massive holes in the earth s ozone layer, and as a result it is no longer manufactured for general consumption. It s still legal to use, however, so if you have a working Halon fire extinguisher, you may wish to use it with your robot firefighter. You may also consider one of a number of Halon alternatives; select one that does not dispense a foam or powder. For example, any inert gas (helium, argon) and many noncombustible gasses (e.g., nitrogen) can be used to deplete a fire, and they will not leave a sediment on whatever they are sprayed on. No matter what you use for the fire extinguisher, be sure to use caution as a guide when building any fire-fighting robot. Consider limiting your robot for experimental use, and test it only in well-ventilated rooms or better yet outside.
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FIGURE 39.5 An enhanced wiring scheme for the LM355 temperature sensor. The load of the output is buffered and does not affect the reading from the LM355.
TABLE 39.3 PARTS LIST FOR THE BUFFERED TEMPERATURE TRANSDUCER.
R1 C1,C3 C2,C4 D1
12K resistor, 1 percent tolerance 0.1 F ceramic capacitor 4.7 F tantalum capacitor LM335 temperature sensor diode
All capacitors have 10 percent tolerance unless noted; all resistors 1/4-watt.
The exact mounting and triggering scheme you use depends entirely on the design of the fire extinguisher. The bottle used in the prototype firebot is a Kidde Force-9, 2 1/2 pound Halon extinguisher. It has a diameter of about 3 1/4 inches. You can mount the extinguisher in the robot by using plumber s tape, that flexible metallic strip used by plumbers to mount water and gas pipes. It has lots of holes already drilled into it for easy mounting. Use two strips to hold the bottle securely. Remember that a fully charged extinguisher is heavy in this case over 3 pounds (2 1/2 pounds for the Halon chemical and about 1/2
FIRE FIGHTING
pound for the bottle). If you add a fire extinguisher to your robot, you must relocate other components to evenly distribute the weight. The extinguisher used in the prototype system for this book used a standard actuating valve. To release the fire retardant, you squeeze two levers together. Fig. 39.6 shows how to use a heavy-duty solenoid to remotely actuate the valve. You may be able to access the valve plunger itself (you may have to remove the levers to do so). Rig up a heavy-duty solenoid and lever system. A computer or control circuit activates the solenoid. For best results, the valve should be opened and closed in quick bursts (200 300 milliseconds are about right). The body of the robot should also pivot back and forth so the extinguishing agent is spread evenly over the fire. Remember that to be effective, the extinguishing agent must be sprayed at the base of the fire, not at the flames. For most fires, this is not a problem because the typical robot stays close to the floor. If the fire is up high, the robot may not be able to effectively fight it. You can test the fire extinguisher a few times before the bottle will need recharging. I was able to squeeze off several dozen short blasts before the built-in pressure gauge registered that I needed a new charge. For safety s sake, experiment with an extra extinguisher. Don t use your only extinguisher for your robot experiments; keep an extra handy in the unlikely event that you have to fight a fire yourself. If the fire-fighting robot bug bites you hard, consider entering your machine in the annual Trinity College Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest (see www.trincoll.edu/events/robot/ for additional information, including rules and a description of the event). This contest involves timing a robot as it goes from room to room in a houselike test field (the house and all its rooms are in a reduced scale). The object is to find the fire of a candle and snuff it out in the least amount of time. Separate competitions involving a junior division (high school and younger) and a senior division (everyone else) help to provide an even playing field for the contestants.
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