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digitalimpression's avatar

What are these three things attached to my toy motor?

Asked by digitalimpression (9900 points ) November 28th, 2012

So I got a wild hair that I wanted to help my son build a wind powered LED. I have a toy motor and on the back are 3 solder spots attached in a sort of triangle with wire and attached on each “leg” of the triangle are 3…... pods? I don’t know what you call them. I don’t know if they are resistors or what?

Long story short, I’d like to know how I need to hook up the LED to the motor to make it light when the motor spins. I’m not very good with electronics as you can tell. =)

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26 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

What’s a “wild hair”?

gasman's avatar

Some, but not all, small dc motors will function as generators in reverse, i.e., when you spin them they generate a current. Stepper motors would not be effective, for instance, but with only 3 leads it’s probably not.

I’d suggest getting a voltmeter to look for some output, or even just hook up an led in series with a resistor of a few hundred ohms, while spinning the motor continuously using a drill driver or another motor (forget the wind for the time being). It might work right off the bat. Remember that an LED is a diode, so it only passes current in one direction, so try reversing its leads if it doesn’t light. If it comes on only dimly, use a smaller resistor. Once this is done you can work on the wind-power design. See how low the rpms can get – you might need gears to speed up the motor.

Not sure about those “pods.”

gasman's avatar

3 wires – it’s probably a servo motor! Googling “servo motor generator” brings up lots of good links, and adding “wind” will get you well on your way, I think.

jerv's avatar

My old R/C cars had capacitors soldered between the motor leads and the can to prevent RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) from jamming the controls.

Three leads implies a control wire; either position (servo) or speed. I see the latter a lot of PC cooling fans and the new brushless motors.

LostInParadise's avatar

This is a book that I found on the shelves of B & N. Having no mechanical aptitude, I thought it might be fun to work with.

If you look in the table of contents on Amazon, you will find your project in chapter 10–2. The book uses @gasman ‘s idea of turning a motor into a generator by running it in reverse. It lists a capacitor among the parts needed, which may be related to what @jerv said.

When I read through the book in the bookstore, it said that projects got more sophisticated as the book progressed, which would make this one of the more complicated ones.

dabbler's avatar

My guess is that the center solder spot is mechanical, it holds the insulated pad with the other two contacts onto the motor case.
The two outside solder spots will be where you want to connect for power output if this is the situation.
You will want to put some kind of current limiting resistor inline with your LED in case the breeze gets overwhelming. (e.g. you take the thing in the car and hold it out the window)

If your motor is a good candidate for power generation it will have permanent magnets in it. You can tell that by seeing if it sticks to your fridge door or it can attract steel paper clips.

lillycoyote's avatar

@gailcalled It may be a Southern expression, I’m not entirely sure, but @digitalimpression was trying to be a little discreet. The phrase, in full, generally is “I got a wild hair up my ass and…”

I’m not sure what the orgins of the phrase are, but it basically means getting “a sudden, unecxpected, overhwhelming urge or desire to do something,” whatever that something may be.

In this case, it was @digitalimpression desire to build a wind powered LED for his son.

It’s generally something you get an urge to do and jump into without entirely thinking it through, hence the question about what to do next.

gailcalled's avatar

@lillycoyote: Thanks. It’s an expression I haven’t heard.

lillycoyote's avatar

@gailcalled I’m thinking it might be a Southern expression, or maybe Texas even, I don’t know. It was one that I had never heard before either; until I lived in Texas. But I really don’t know if it’s regional or not. I’m no expert on these things, but I have always heard the full
expression as “a wild hair up my/his/her ass.”

gailcalled's avatar

It’s not used in the NE also.

A useful phrase, both colorful and precise.

lillycoyote's avatar

@gailcalled Yes, colorful and precise. I didn’t mean to be so pedandic about a phrase that is so much fun to use; it’s one of my favorites.

jaytkay's avatar

I thought the term was “wild hare” with @lillycoyote‘s definition of “something you get an urge to do and jump into without entirely thinking it through”.

Wild Hare was also a reggae club for many years, across the street from Wrigley Field here in Chicago

jerv's avatar

As a guy born and raised in New England, the term “wild hair” is far from new to me. Maybe it’s just that it’s not often used by polite/refined people?

lillycoyote's avatar

@jerv You are certainly polite/refined enough not to have said ” wild hair up my/his/her ass.” :-)

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dabbler's avatar

All y’all just keep that wild hare out of places where the sun doesn’t shine !!

I still think the center ‘contact’ is a mechanical support that holds the doohickey with the two active electrical contacts in place.

gailcalled's avatar

@dabbler: Is “all y’all” the plural of “y’all”? Southern vernacular 101?

dabbler's avatar

@gailcalled It’s not my native language but, yes, that’s my understanding of ’“All y’all”.
I think I heard that most parts where you would hear “y’all” it is both singular and plural, but there is a smaller region where “all y’all” is used to address a group.

digitalimpression's avatar

@gailcalled Thanks for taking this off track right at the beginning….

@allthehelpfulpeople Thanks!

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lillycoyote's avatar

@digitalimpression, With all due respect, it wasn’t @gailcalled‘s fault this one got off track. She was just asking for clarification on a term, “wild hair” with which she was unfamiliar. I answered her question. My response furthered your thread off track, others chimed in.

You had the option, at any time, and you still have the option, to flag all the unhelpful or off-topic responses as unhelpful and/or off-topic, and those responses, including mine, would have been removed by the mods… not my call to make but it might have been a better option than get all bent out of shape at @gailcalled‘s perfectly reasonable question. Not Gail’s fault, IMHO.

gailcalled's avatar

@lillycoyote: Thank you for being my champion but @digital and I have ironed out what turned out to be the teeniest of misunderstandings in PM’s.

Milo here; Of course, it is always Gail’s fault.

lillycoyote's avatar

@gailcalled Oops… shoot! I’ve been away for a while! Dammit. This always happens when I stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong. And I just sent him a pm regarding this. I am going to simply mind my own business and keep my mouth shut from now on… though I wish when we all have this little tiffs on a thread, and we all do, that someone would post a little addendum, or something, informing the rest of us that it has all been straightened out!

O.K. I am off to pm @digitalimpression a big nevermind. It seems I now have some ironing out of my own to do.:-)

And Lizzie, my dog here, to Milo – It’s always “their” fault; of course it is. They will just never get that, will they?

digitalimpression's avatar

@gailcalled and @lillycoyote Just to clarify and perhaps alleviate some unnecessary woe.. I hope everyone understands that 99% of the time I’m being candid. I might stir up some bee hives from time to time.. but just know that it’s all in good fun.

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