Single Component Tutorial: How to Create a Mouse Mover Using a Servo
Have you ever been working from home and needed to step out for a moment? Maybe it was to clear your head, grab your lunch, answer the door, and you get in trouble because it showed you as offline?
This tutorial will show you how to build a mouse mover using Viam, a Raspberry Pi, a servo, and an optical mouse. This robot will turn the continuous servo that’s secured inside the box, which will turn the circle under the optical mouse. This will keep your computer from falling asleep.
This project is a good place to begin if you’re new to robotics and would like to learn how to use a servo component with the Viam app and Viam’s Python SDK.
- Raspberry Pi with microSD card, with
viam-serverinstalled per our installation guide
- microSD card reader
- Continuous rotation servo (we used the FS90R servo)
- Wheel or arm for the servo (this comes in some of the FS90R packages)
- Jumper wires
- Optical mouse - corded or uncorded
Tools and Consumables
- Suitable sized box (box should allow servo with wheel/arm with circle cut out on top of wheel/arm to sit flush with the top of the box)
- Double sided tape
- Tape to seal the box (we used black gaffers tape)
- Box cutters
Install Viam software
viam-server according to our installation guide
Next, run this command in your Raspberry Pi terminal to install the pip package manager. Select “yes” when it asks if you want to continue.
sudo apt-get install pip
The command above installs the latest version of
pip3 on your Raspberry Pi.
To verify and get the version of the package, you can run the command:
The Viam Python SDK (Software Development Kit) allows you to write programs in the Python programming language to operate robots using Viam. To get the Python SDK working on the Raspberry Pi, run the following command in your Raspberry Pi terminal:
pip install viam-sdk
Test the SDK with your robot
On the Viam app, select the Code Sample tab, then confirm that Python is set as the default language.
Since we already installed the Python SDK, we can skip the first step. Copy the code in from step 2.
The copied code needs to go in a Python file on the Raspberry Pi. You can do so by creating a file on the Raspberry Pi and editing the file with nano.
Inside the Raspberry Pi Terminal, run the following command to create a folder to put our files in (name this folder whatever you want).
Go into mousefolder.
Create a file using nano with the .py which is the python file extension, (name this file whatever you want).
Paste the code you got from the Code Sample tab in the Viam app. Press CTRL+O, then CTRL+M, then CTRL+X to save the code and exit.
Now, run the code using the below command to get the resource information that lets us know if the connection is good or if there are any errors.
There are no errors in the resources above, so we have confirmed a good software connection between the Python SDK and your Viam robot!
Connect the Servo
First, turn off your Raspberry Pi. This will help prevent any accidents when connecting the hardware.
Now, follow this schematic diagram to attach jumper wires to the servo and Raspberry Pi.
- GND on servo attached to pin 6 on Pi
- 5V on servo attached to pin 2 on Pi
- PWM on servo attached to pin 12 on Pi
Once you have the wires connected, attach the wheel/arm to servo and turn on the Raspberry Pi.
Configure your robot
The servo is now physically connected to the Raspberry Pi, but the Viam app hasn’t been told the details of which components/services it’s using yet, so it’s not able to control the servo.
Go to the Viam app, and navigate to the Config tab.
In the Config tab, create a new component with the following attributes:
local- you can name this whatever you want, you will reference it later.
Click Create Component to create the pi board component component.
After the board component, create a new servo component with the following attributes:
FS90R- we named the servo using the model number, but you can use whatever you want, you will reference it later.
Click Create Component to create the servo component.
You will then see where you can put in Attributes for the servo. This is where you tell Viam which hardware pin to use to control the servo.
- For “pin”: use “12” - this is the pin you attached the PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) jumper wire to.
- For “board”: use “local”
- For Depends On click local. This ensures that the board is initialized before the servo.
The attribute section will look like this:
Click the Save Config button.
Control the servo in Viam app
If everything went well, the servo started to move.
Navigate to the Control tab and press the STOP button on the servo card (matching what you named the servo) to stop the servo.
Click on the top of the servo card to open the servo controls.
Angle will determine what speed your servo goes and in what direction. 90 degrees is the midway point and is the stopping point. Try changing the angle to a few different settings.
Assemble the mouse mover
Now that you’ve confirmed that the software and hardware are connected and working correctly with Viam, let’s assemble the mouse mover.
Position the Raspberry Pi and servo in the box
Put the Raspberry Pi and servo in the box and mark out where each should be, then take the Raspberry Pi out. Now, make sure the servo is close to level with the top (leaving a tiny bit of room for the circle cut out and tape). Tape the servo in place.
Cut a holes in the box for the Pi
Place the Raspberry Pi back in the box and mark where the USB-C plug is so that you know where it is on the outside of the box. Take out the Raspberry Pi. Grab a box cutter and cut out a power hole.
Since the Raspberry Pi will be in a box and won’t have much ventilation, cutting a courtesy hole to allow for it to vent is the least we could do to keep it from frying.
Be sure to tape the jumper wires out of the way of the servo.
Cut the mouse mover circle out of the box and tape to servo
The technique we used to find the center of the circle was to mark the screw on the servo. Gently push on the box to get a mark on the inside of the box, then create a cut we could see from the other side.
Tape the box shut, add “babygates”, and plug in the Raspberry Pi
When taping the box shut be sure the servo with the circle cut out sits fairly flush to the top of the box. Add “babygates” or rails to keep the mouse from wandering off if it catches some friction.
Control your robot with code
Copy the code from the mousemover Github repository into your nano file, save it, and run it.
The code uses the Python SDK to securely connect to your robot through Viam app. Then, it enters a for loop in which position tells us the servo myServo to move to positions (angle, or speed/direction) between 80 and 93 degrees as specified in the sequence list. The code uses pause_time to wait for a random amount of time between 5 and 20 seconds to stay at that position.
You can adjust the range (or speed/direction) by changing the two numbers in the position statement. (Currently set at 80 and 93). You can also change the time that the servo is allowed to spin in any direction by changing the two numbers in the pause_time statement. Experiment and have fun.
If you want to build more robots, head over to our documentation site and take a look at our tutorials. And if you didn’t like this tutorial and would like to speak to my manager, their name is . (Update: apparently that’s a big no no.)
You can also join us in Viam’s Discord for any issues, comments, hardware chats, banter, and debates on if pineapple belongs on pizza or not.
Have questions, or want to meet other people working on robots? Join our Community Discord.
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