I want to give Colin a truly American gift, something that transports him across the pond to right here in New York City. And now that Colin’s been a food judge on British TV, what better way than to share a local culinary tradition– the sidewalk hotdog cart. So for Colin, I’m building a New York Hot Dog Experience Machine. Also: Estefannie and Ruth helped me come up with the idea.
I found some “hot dog robots” online but all they did was pick up the dog, never put the toppings on, which is mostly what you see happening at a NYC hot dog cart. So I started my quest to build a toppings machine, and figured it might as well look the part too.
Now I know we were supposed to stick to a small materials budget for this project, but sponsored parts don’t count and this project is sponsored by Digi-Key. I was able to easily source all the electronics parts for this build and they ship super fast.
Electronics supplies (also available as a saved cart on Digi-Key):
- 1 continuous rotation servo motor
- 2 standard servo motors
- PWM servo motor driver board
- Arduino Uno/Nano microcontroller
- Sound board with speakers
- 3 8×8 LED matricies
- Trinket M0 microcontroller
- 5V power adapter
- Wire strippers
- Flush diagonal cutters
Other materials and tools:
- 3D printer with PLA filament in yellow and red
- Sewing machine
- CNC vinyl cutter
- Laser cutter
- Mustard bottle
- 7 small conveyer rollers
- 1/4″ acrylic sheet in clear and black
- American Girl Doll umbrella
- Ripstop nylon fabric in blue and yellow
- Paper hot dog trays
Check out all my favorite electronics tools and supplies.
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Record Authentic NYC Audio
I wanted to help Colin feel like he was really in New York City, so I went to some different spots in Manhattan to record some audio. I’ve attached the edited OGG file, which is compatible with the audio FX sound board.
The electronics for this project are based around a motor driver board to control all three servos, hooked up to a microcontroller that is also reading the photoresistor to detect the hotdog and also two manual control buttons for loading/unloading the mustard bottle.
The LED matrix is made from three smaller panels, and the LEDs are dotstars. It has its own little microcontroller so I didn’t have to worry about integrating the LED animations with the motors or switches up top. The code is easier that way.
Power is shared between this main circuit and the sound board controlling the audio, as well as the LED and its dedicated microcontroller.
I’ve attached the Arduino code for this project.
Now, mechanical engineering isn’t usually my strongest subject, and I really didn’t want to mess up this awesome idea, so I called on my friend Ruby Zoom for help– she helped design the mechanisms, and it was a blast working with her on this project. Please go check out her channel.
The mustard squeezer and onion dumper are 3D printed and have servo motors controlling their movement.
I used bits of aluminum extrusion I had kicking around to make a simple gantry for the mustard.
The squeezer has two motors. One to wiggle the bottle back and forth, and one to squeeze out the mustard.
Onion Sauce Plopper
The onion sauce plopper has one motor that spins the sauce trough to dump out the sauce.
Mini Sabrett Umbrella
Fittingly enough, the umbrella that ended up being the right scale for this project is an American Girl doll umbrella. I fitted it with some blue and yellow fabric to make it look more like the ones at the hot dog carts. I used some iron-on t-shirt vinyl and my cnc vinyl cutter to make the graphics.
Polymer Clay Pretzels
I made some polymer clay pretzels to go with the experience, but by the time it was ready to ship to Colin, my studio was such a mess I couldn’t find them. They turned up when I cleaned up, so I’ll put them on the second version of the machine I made to keep for myself.
Maker Secret Santa 2021!
All that was left to do was send Colin’s gift to him in the UK. I included the mustard, onion sauce, UK power adapter, and some instructions. Head over to Colin’s channel to watch him open it and try it out.