Andy the Autonomous Arduino Powered Rover - Part 1
A few months ago, I set out to create a simple robot that would teach kids both the mechanical and coding side of robotics and could be used in STEM education curriculums. After a few weeks of research and development, I settled on a design that was based on the Dagu Magician Chassis and Arduino. The Magician Chassis is a low-cost robotics platform that is based off of two gear motors and laser cut acrylic sheets that have hundreds of mounting points on both the top and bottom.
Since I was designing the robot for youth STEM education, I wanted to make him appeal to a younger audience, so I named him Andy the Autonomous Arduino Powered Rover, or ATAAPR for short. In this tutorial series, I will be showing you how to build Andy from the ground up, code him to avoid obstacles in his path, and how to tweak him to perform better. For this installment, we will be focusing solely on building the robot from the ground up.
I will not cover the whole education aspect of the robot as that is still an on-going project that I will be refining over the next several months. However, by the end of this series, you will be able to build an Andy replica that you and your kids could easily build on a Saturday afternoon with little to no knowledge of coding or robotics yourself.
The Magician Chassis is the perfect platform for this type of robot because it includes the motors, wheels, chassis, battery pack, and standoffs needed to mount the electronics, and, with a price of about $15, it is an unbeatable value. As for the electronics, I chose to go with Arduino-based hardware as it is easy to interface, open source, and kid friendly. Its IDE is also easy to use and beginner friendly, which is key to designing a successful educational kit. I have also utilized a cheap hobby servo and a HC-SR04 ultra-sonic "ping" sensor to help aid in object detection. This sensor is a little harder to interface than the three-pin version from Parallax but only costs a few dollars on Ebay.
Several discrete components are needed as well, including two 480 ohm 1/4 watt resistors, two 5mm LEDs, and a 9V battery clip. Several male-male jumper wires of various lengths will be needed as well as eight male-female jumper wires. A micro-breadboard, Velcro strips, some double stick foam mounting tape, and large 1.5-inch "googly eyes" will be needed as well. Finally, some 3D printed parts will need to be acquired, but only one of them is critical and could be made by hand from cardboard, wood, or anything else that is easily workable with hand tools.
Tools needed include a Phillips screwdriver, precision flat head screw driver, hot glue gun, wire strippers (if using hookup wire like I did), and a small pair of pliers. A multi-rotary tool, such as a Dremel, with diamond bur bit is also needed to modify the chassis a little. Additionally, a multimeter with continuity testing could come in handy if you need to troubleshoot connections. As far as software goes, the Arduino IDE is the only thing you will need, and it can be downloaded for free from Arduino.cc. Below is a list of exactly what you will need, and you can find links to buy these components by heading over to my TweakTown Author Blog.
- 1x Dagu Magician's Chassis
- 1x Arduino Uno R3
- 1x Arduino Motor Shield R3
- 1x Hobby Servo
- 4x M3 x 40mm Screws With Nuts
- 1x HC-SR04 Ultra Sonic Sensor
- 2x 480 OHM 1/4 Watt Resistors
- 2x 5mm White LEDs
- 1x 9V Battery Clip
- 1x Pack of Male-Male Jumper Wires
- 8x Female-Male Jumper Wires
- 1x Micro Breadboard
- 1x Velcro Strip
- 2x 1.5-Inch "Googly Eyes"
- 1x Foam Mounting Tape
- 4x AA batteries
- 1x 9V Battery
- 1x USB A to USB B Cable
Total cost for the robot comes to about $100 when bought in single quantities, which is less than what most educational robot kits cost now. Factor in about an hour's build time and an hour of teaching the coding aspect, and you have a complete low-cost educational robotics kit that could be built and taught over two class sessions to youth ranging from sixth grade up to high-school seniors and beyond.
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