Over the last few weeks I've been trying to help a toaster fulfill its dream. To put its energy toward the sky, toward space. One toaster lost its life in the advanced training lab (it should have taken the green team less intense training mission). But the second, almost made it to space. Almost.

The project began with a toaster that a subletter left behind in my apartment. I don't eat toast and I got the feeling the toaster was feeling pretty neglected. After a discussion with Gabe the idea for the Rocket Toaster was born. I quickly began working, thinking about how the toaster might behave if it was getting ready to launch.

What technology could enable this dream?

  • Deffinately a bass shaker. It's all the magic of a subwoofer in a compact package
  • A fog machine when it's engines start
  • A method for dramatically ejecting the toast into space. Or the toaster.

Prototyping

Fitting it in

Quickly it became apparent that this wasn't all going to fit in the toaster. I wasn't really looking forward to putting things in a nondescript box without some connection to the toaster. I had shipped everything down to Florida to work on during spring break. (I didn't think the TSA wanted to deal with my half disassembled toaster and related parts)

While gathering parts I thought about a breadbox. Finding one was surprisingly difficult. I ended up at two Targets and a Walmart. Eventually I found one.

Rocket Toaster Build

Rocket Toaster Build

Fitting everything inside the large breadbox was also a challenge.

Rocket Toaster Build

Equipment

Some of the design choices were based on parts that I already had on hand. In the final design:

  • Audio Amp
  • Bass shaker
  • Standard speaker
  • Toy fog machine + battery pack
  • Power Switch Tail
  • Arduino
  • Magnetic reed sensor
  • LED Strip
  • Relay board
  • CO2 Bike Pump
  • Car door lock solenoid
  • Air pump

Rocket Toaster Build
Rocket Toaster Build

The reed sensor detects the toaster being turned on. Which sends a message to Max. Max responds that it's ready for the sequence to start and then everything else except for the audio is handled by the Arduino.

Logistics

Basically, what was I thinking? The audio and LED elements work well. However the toy fog machine and CO2 haven't been playing nice.

Toy makes a mess

The fog machine toy is evil. A true micro-sized fog machine is 400+ dollars, so you get what you pay for with this $30 dollar POS. It's constantly leaking fluid. Because the toy design uses a bladder in the trigger, I had to replace it with an air pump. The size of the tube was irregular and getting everything attached wasn't fun.

CO2 doesn't work

Ideally I would have a large CO2 canister but I wasn't able to find something affordable (cryogenic solenoids are expensive!) or the parts to use a soda stream canister. Briefly I looked at C02 cannons as well but they are way too large. I already had a CO2 tire filler so I tried to get it to work.

Rocket Toaster Build

Directly out of the nozzle the CO2 spray was pretty effective for producing white smoke and pushing objects along. I couldn't figure out how to mount it in the toaster and still be able to trigger it. Plan B was a tube to redirect the CO2 spray. Unfortunately the tubing I was able to find is too stiff and the effect leaves something to be desired. I'm pretty bummed because high speed ejection of toast was the payoff of this project.

Rocket Toaster Build

I attempted to use a more flexible hose with the correctly sized hose as well. Why does epoxy smell so bad?

Rocket Toaster Build

Additionally, even the door lock solenoid at 24V doesn't consistently pull the trigger on the device.

Lessons Learned

  • Don't underestimate the complexity of seemingly simple special effects
  • Proto shields are your friend. Without RadioShack I'm not sure how to get them quickly. But it would be nice to not worry about a wire getting loose

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