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There's nothing you can't accomplish with potatoes and science.

Clara Olshansky
June 28, 2017

You know that classic middle school experiment where you turn a potato into a battery and use it to power a clock? Well, if you add an energy harvesting chip, a pair of wheels, a pair of motors, and a super capacitor to the mix, you can get a lot more out of that potato. For example, you can turn it into a self-driving potato, like Swedish engineer Marek Baczynski did, because what's more fun than watching a potato roll around the floor all on its own?

Who knows? This could mean that the recent efforts to grow potatoes on Mars and the Moon would have farther reaching effects than just curbing astronauts' appetites. Perhaps they could also power teeny tiny rovers, too.

Okay, so fair warning: if that's all you add, 15 minutes of charge will only get your potato to drive about 3 inches, and only ever in a straight line. To fix these problems, Baczynski added another motor, a control board, and a script he wrote that allows the potato to "choose" what direction it moves in.

The self-driving potato, which was named "Pontus," ended up having preferences for how it wanted to move. For example, it ended up favoring areas where it could sit in the sun. Given our love of French fries, it's a little concerning how easy it is for even a machine-operated potato to seem adorable.

Granted, the sunlight thing might not be true. At a certain point in the video, it becomes hard to know whether Baczynski is showing us his invention, or straight-up storytelling. If Baczynski is to be believed, after a few days the potato kept driving to the oven, basically begging to be baked. Just goes to show: once a potato, always a potato, even if you're a robotic potato driving a tiny car.