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Figure 7-4. Voltage sensor step 1
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CHAPTER 7 VOLTAGE SENSORS
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Put a short piece of heat shrink tubing on the longer speaker wire and solder it to the black wire in the NXT cable. Slide the heat shrink down to cover the connection and shrink it with a hair dryer. Then solder the 10k resistor (brown-black-orange-gold) to the white wire in the cable. Shrink some tubing over the end of the resistor and the connection. It should now look like Figure 7-5.
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Figure 7-5. Voltage sensor step 2 Slip some heat shrink tubing over the resistor and solder the remaining connection. Then pull the tubing back over the resistor and shrink it so it looks like Figure 7-6.
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Figure 7-6. Voltage sensor step 3 Finally, shrink a large piece of tubing over the whole assembly, including a short length of the NXT cable. This provides strain relief and further protects the connections. The finished voltage sensor should look like Figure 7-7.
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CHAPTER 7 VOLTAGE SENSORS
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Figure 7-7. Voltage sensor step 4
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NXT Battery Tester
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Probably the most useful voltage to measure with the NXT voltmeter is an AA battery. It s always a good idea to check to see whether there is any life left before throwing batteries away. You can make the AA holder from just a few LEGO parts, as shown in Figure 7-8. Electrical connection is made by stripping about an inch (25mm) of insulation off the ends of the speaker wire and looping it through the holes at the end of the beams. The + wire should go to the rotating beam on the top and the wire to the one on the bottom. Wrapping aluminum foil around the end of the beams makes getting a good connection easier.
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Figure 7-8. Partial assembly of AA holder The AA battery is pinched much like a nut in a nutcracker between the ends of the beams, as shown in Figure 7-9. You should read the voltage using the NXT voltmeter program first to make sure everything
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CHAPTER 7 VOLTAGE SENSORS
works. If your meter reads a negative voltage, you mixed up the wires somehow and you need to exchange them.
Figure 7-9. Using the AA holder to measure battery voltage A simple battery tester program is shown in Figure 7-10. It classifies the battery quality into three bands. Above 1.45V, the battery is considered Fantastic; between 1.45V and 1.25V, it s Good; and below 1.25V, it s Low.
Figure 7-10. Battery tester program
A 15V to +15V Sensor
Five volts isn t always a wide enough measurement range. Laboratory instruments have an output signal for connecting to other instruments that s in the range of 0V to +10V. Industrial sensors are often 10V to +10V. Automotive electronics are around 12V, and 9V is common in portable electronics such as the NXT itself.
CHAPTER 7 VOLTAGE SENSORS
The voltage sensor design in Figure 7-11 allows the input signal to swing from 15V to +15V and needs only two resistors. You can get 15k (5% color code: brown-green-orange-gold) resistors from Radio Shack in their assortment packs, but if you don t want to buy the 30k (5% color code: orangeblack-orange-gold) from another supplier, you need to make it from two 15k resistors in series.
Figure 7-11. 15V to +15V sensor circuit Figure 7-12 shows the plot of external voltage and Raw value. The program shown in Figure 7-13 is basically the same as the 5V to +5V program, except the numbers are scaled up by a factor of 3. A NXT2 version would multiply by 30, subtract only 15, and automatically show the value with a decimal point.
Figure 7-12. Plot of input voltage and Raw value
CHAPTER 7 VOLTAGE SENSORS
Figure 7-13. 15V to +15V NXT voltmeter program
CHAPTER 8
4.3V Powered Sensors
The NXT provides a DC voltage on the sensor input port for sensors that require a power supply. (The LEGO Light Sensors and Sound Sensors are examples of sensors powered this way.) It s defined as the 4.3V power supply, but the voltage actually varies about 7% with load. The plot in Figure 8-1 shows the voltage ranging from 4.6V, when the power supply is lightly loaded, to 4.0V when it s fully loaded. It is important to note that this plot is for the total current of all the ports put together.
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