Building Non-Kit robots

Hi all,

I’ve been a mentor for Rescue Line and OnStage for a number of years now, and have worked with dozens of teams. Besides working with RoboCup teams, I’ve also been working with kids of all ages (…from 6yo to 18yo) on robotics. Some of the problems that I’ve often encounter is that…

  • Kit robots (eg. Lego, VEX) are expensive, and their plug-and-play architecture limits learning.
  • Building non-kit robots (eg. using Arduinos, RPi) can be intimidating, both in terms of selecting parts and coding.

To reduce cost and ease the transition into non-kit robots, I’ve prepared an opensource robot design (…basically just a list of recommended parts and software). All of the recommended parts are items that you can buy off Amazon / Aliexpress / etc and should cost under USD$75 total. I’m not designing or selling any new parts. All software are opensource.

Nothing in the hardware or software are targeted at any task or competition; but for the avoidance of any doubts (especially for software)…

  • For motor controls, the design recommends an Arduino based CNC controller running the opensource “stepper_wheels” firmware. The firmware is analogous to GRBL (ie. it receives commands and controls the stepper), but with a focus on driving wheels rather than moving axis.

  • For main controller, the design recommends an ESP-32 and the IoTy platform. IoTy is an opensource blocks / micropython coding platform similar to BIPES or microblocks. It’s originally created to let kids build IoT electronic devices at a low cost.

Both the stepper_wheels firmware as well as the IoTy platform were created by me.

There is also a CAD drawing (OnShape) for a reference robot body (…basically just a plain wooden board with a few mounting holes), and a set of parametric JSCAD design for 3D printable sensor mountings.

If someone were to build the provided design, the constructed robot will have two wheels and can be programmed to move, but will otherwise be entirely incapable of completing any competition tasks. The team will have to choose which sensors to use (…aided by the recommendation in the design), decide where to place them (…aided by the JSCAD models for easy mounting), and write their own code (…potentially using IoTy in either blocks or micropython).

Would like to ask the community…

  1. Do anyone see an issue with me sharing this with the teams I mentor?

  2. Would this be useful to other teams? If so, how best can I share it with others?