Over the last few weeks we have been looking at different Arduino based robot car kits. First we looked at the Elegoo Smart Car Robot Kit and then Pololu’s Zumo 32U4. Both of these robot car kits are feature packed and either would be a great way to learn robot controls and theory with the comfort of the Arduino platform. But one thing both of these kits lack is easy expandability. The Elegoo kit is easy to put together but the custom Arduino Shield that makes everything so easy is also a hindrance when someone wants to install more sensors. The Zumo 32U4 is so packed with I/O that it maxes out the microcontroller and you’d have to take it apart to add anything. Today’s robot solves the problem of customization by stripping the robot car down to the essentials and using one of the most versatile Arduino compatible boards we’ve seen, the RoboRED. YourDuino’s Basic Robot Kit includes motors, wheels, battery case, sonic range finding turret, motor driver, RoboRED, and a chassis with plenty of places to mount things.
The robot car kit is based on a two wheel design with a 360 degree mini wheel which allows for easy steering control while being stable. The large wheels and rubber tires are good for most flat surfaces and it does well even on carpet. The kit includes slotted wheels for optical encoders but does not include the encoders. This set of 2 channel encoders could be added down the line for advanced control. You can see in the picture above where I used wires to affix the included switch. I tied this into the power for the motor driver so the robot won’t move when programming. The battery pack takes 6 AA’s and includes a barrel plug that goes right into the RoboRed Arduino. The HC-SR04 Sonic Rangefinder and the Mini Servomotor for the turret are very standard parts that any beginner should quickly become acquainted. The real beauty here thought is the RoboRed itself and the 40 wire female to female ribbon cable that can be torn to create cables of any number of wires. The RoboRED has a three prong male header for every single Arduino I/O pin. This means every sensor has power and ground available without the need for rails on a breadboard. Not only does it remove the need for soldering but this is what makes YourDuino’s robot car the most customizable robot kit we’ve looked at.
This kit was so easy to put together that I didn’t even take the minute to take my usual “loose parts laid out on the floor” picture. I had the whole thing together, wires and all, in under an hour. Aside from the things you want mounted like the turret servo and the motors, everything is held on with Velcro. So the whole kit mechanically assembled with 8 nuts and bolts, 3 self tapping screws, and Velcro. This is so easy that 5th and 6th graders would have no problem building it themselves. I’d still recommend adult supervision. The kit comes with a clear Plexiglas body but I choose to not remove the paper cover for a couple reasons: I liked the more rustic look of the brown cardboard and I wanted to be able to remove the Velcro easily and mount the components for a future build. You can see the way it looks with a clear base on YourDuino’s website.
Speaking of YourDuino’s website, it is jam packed with resources. The instructions for this robot are designed for someone that knows nothing about Arduino or robots and wants to learn. There are lessons on Arduino and the IDE coding environment. The instructions to build the robot include clear full color photos and test methods for all of the components. Then it goes into robot theory and programming. There are even resources for educators on ideas for lessons on robotics ranging from ethical discussions to examples of robots in art and fiction and even the Engineering Design Process.
While it is held together by Velcro nothing seemed loose or at risk of falling off. This was very surprising to me and is a huge bonus for someone with children that want to build robots with little help. The RoboRED makes expansion easy. You could take almost any part from the Elegoo 37 Sensor kit and (with the included ribbon cable) plug it directly into the 3 prong header on the RoboRED- no breadboard or soldering needed. This could add so many features both as inputs or outputs. This would be especially useful with a line following sensor for maze solving or navigation over a gradient. You could add up to 8 additional 3 wire devices this way. With most Arduinos you would eventually have to worry about hitting the 500mA limit of the 5V power regulator but the RoboRED has a 2 Amp regulator which will go further than the number of pins. And any number of these sensors can be easily attached with bolts, zip ties, or twisted wires.
The reasons we like this kit are the great resources, ease of construction, and possibilities for expansion. This would be a wonderful Arduino robot car kit for a late elementary or middle school classroom. YourDuino.com sells the Basic Robot Kit on their website. I hoped you like looking at this robot car, please Subscribe and check back for more robot kit reviews.