Carl Friedrich Gauss was, to say the least, a polymath responsible for a large percentage of the things we take for granted in the modern world. As a physicist and mathematician, he was a pioneer in several fields of study, including magnetism. But since he died decades before the first car was built, it’s unlikely he could have envisioned this creation, a magnetic slot-car racetrack called Gauss Speedway by [Jeff McBride]which bears the name of the famous scientist.
Gauss Speedway takes its inspiration from a recent development in robotics, where many small robots can travel around a large area using orbital tracks integrated into their area of operation. With the right current applied to these tracks, magnetic fields are generated which propel the robots forward. [Jeff] wanted to build something similar, integrated into a printed circuit board directly, and came up with the slot car idea. The small cars have tiny magnets in them that interact with the tracks in the circuit board, allowing the cars to move with high precision around the track. He abandoned the traditional slot car controller in favor of a push button style direct on the circuit board, meaning everything is completely integrated.
Although this was more of a demonstration or proof-of-concept, some of the features of this style of robot can be seen in this video, which shows them moving extremely fast with high precision, on uneven surfaces or even up walls. Magnetic robots like these are having something of a renaissance, and we’ve even seen some that use magnetism to shapeshift.