Fun with Potentiometers

In my robotics course, we are learning how to use potentiometers. For those of you familiar with electronics and digital logic, you’ll know that a potentiometer acts like a rheostat or variable resistor.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with potentiometers, you use them a lot more than you realize! When you adjust the radio in your car, chances are you’re using a potentiometer. If you have a dimmer in your house to control the lights, you might be using a potentiometer. They basically allow you to have a lot more control over your products, instead of just having an “On/Off” setting.

In one robotics lab, we used a “knob” potentiometer to control the volume of a speaker and the brightness of LEDs. After this lab, we had to use one of the different types of potentiometers to do something new with our speaker or LEDs.

My partner and I choose to use a soft potentiometer, which was a long, thin strip with three connections. The soft potentiometer is a touch-based input device, where you touch somewhere on the strip to make changes, instead of turning a knob. I’ve included a video below to make it a bit easier to understand. We choose to make the LEDs turn on or off based on where you touched on the potentiometer