Let's Make Robots!

Where should I start #2

Oh no, I accidently delete the whole post. I was to delete a reply I just sent by mistake, and apparently it deleted the complete thread :(. Oh dear, and that happens to an IT guy, cheese... :)

But lucky enough, I got a lot of informations before I deleted it. And did save it for offline reading :)
I was to ask only one last thing.

I can't remember who, but someone linked this kit http://www.robotshop.com/eu/dfrobotshop-rover-tracked-robot-basic-kit-2.html
I was to ask if there are any drawbacks in getting this kit instead of the parts that merser listed? Will I be able to improve this kit like adding new parts to it? And will I be able to program, for example, the led's different or will I be restricted somehow by ordering such premade kits compared to ordering parts and not a kit?
What if I break a part of the kit, will I be able to replace it, or is THAT the drawbacks of such kits?
Or is it just a money question? I planned to spend around 100$ (tools excluded) for a kit or parts to do my first steps.



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I am the one who posted that link ;)

Honestly, both are good for a start. The rover tracked use some genereic hardware as well that could be replace easily. Merser proposal was very good too.

If it can helps, here the pros and the cons for each (from my point of view) :

Rover tracked

Pros :
- Everything is in the kit, you won't miss any part
- You will be guided by a specific documentation (I guess, I have never bought that kit)
- Some sensors are pre soldered
- no "mechanical" problem to solve

Cons :
- No place for your imagination
- It will not totally be "your" creation
- No ultrasonic sensor (which is probably the sensor that provides the more fun => obstacles avoidance and makes your robot really autonomous)

Merser proposal :

Pros :
- Cutomized creation
- a bit of mechanical challenge
- SFR05 (as told above, this ultrasonic sensor provides great possibilities)

Cons :
- A bit more challenging, you will have to find by yourself how to build it, connect it and program it (it is not that difficult, but still not as easy as a full documentation :)
- You might need more tools to fix all components together
- Do not forget any component when ordering ! I have wasted so much money doing 5 orders for the same robot because I always forget something :p (and transport fees might be higher than the price of the damn forgotten component ;)

So it is up to you :)

Great comparison!

What will stop me from just installing a SFR05 on to the board which comes with the kit?

I'll let you know what I've ordered... it's probably going to be a stomach decision.

"What will stop me from just installing a SFR05 on to the board which comes with the kit?"

Nothing :)

If your order separated pieces, don't hesitate to post your shopping list first, so anyone can check if something is missing. And be careful for the rover, I think it comes without the LiPo battery.

I'm leaning towards the "start here" Robo. If I can replace the Picaxe board and programming cable with an Arduino board + cable, I will definitely go with the LMR Robo for my first attembt of building a Robot.

Can I do that? Replace the Picaxe baord + programming cable with Arduino hardware but use all the other parts of the kit as they are? Which Arduino board/cable would you recommend?

I know I can't modify the kit (would order it here http://www.solarbotics.com/products/lmr-sh/ ) but I would just order that kit and in addition the Arduino hardware.


Your choice of microcontroller is just that--Your choice.  Virtually any microcontroller can handle virtually any small robot task.  Some better than others.

One way to help you make the decision is to think of things that you might want to do, (such as use an ultrasonic sensor) and do a google search for that task/component + whatever microcontroller.  With some microcontrollers you'll probably find lots of examples.  With others, few or none.

Once you've found examples, take a look at the code and see if you can make any sense of it.

Price could be another determining factor.

I would definately steer you towards the start here robot with arduino. Due to your computer science background the c like nature of the Arduino and it's libraries will suit you to a tee.

I know a lot of professionals frown on basic. Personally I think horses for courses. There is a user here called Jax who I think also sells a kit for the start here robot. I'm not sure if he could do it with an arduino though. Best ask him. At 115 dollars for the kit from solarbotics that is double the amount if you bought those parts I listed for you. And there is the same amount of construction required for both.

It seems wasteful to buy a kit to throw the picaxe away and install an arduino. Also more expensive.That is why if you can't find a kit with arduino I think you should buy the separate parts. The Yourduino chassis with gearmotors at 15 dollars seems to be a better option  than gluing motors to battery holders. Not much room to expand upon. For 15 dollars you get a real chassis.

Just my two cents worth.



I agree with merser, it would be a waste to buy the kit with Picaxe AND the Arduino. Moreover, be careful, I know there is a place on the Picaxe board for the motor driver (L293D), but I am not sure you can use this driver directly on an Arduino, you might need a shield / bread board / doing a bit of soldering.

I agree with the advice posted already on the processor. Decide which platform you want to start with and get that one. Yes, you can replace your Picaxe board with an Arduino later, but if your goal is an Arduino-based robot, just start with that.

Ro-Bot-X sells several very nice board that include an Arduino processor and motor driver. There are some other Arduino-based board designed and sold by LMR members. This is cheaper and more compact than buying an Arduino board and a separate motor driver shield. 

Here's a few of the one's I've seen, in not particular order:


If you decide to go the Arduino route, there are a few options available as Ignoblegnome pointed out already. To actually build the SHR, you can go to Solarbotics website and order most of the parts from there then choose the microcontroller board you like best from what Ignoblegnome suggested. 

You can get the motor and wheel bundle (one motor and one wheel, so order 2 of them): http://www.solarbotics.com/products/gmpw_deal/

A 4 AA battery holder: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/bholdaa_4_cell/

A HXT900 servo: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/25500/

A Sharp distance sensor: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/35238/

A Sharp sensor cable: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/45075/

Total: about $38 plus shipping. 

From my products, for the SHR robot the best controller would be the µBotino plus the programming cable. That's another $35 plus shipping. So you're way under the price for the SHR bundle that Solarbotics sells. I made a video of assembling the SHR robot here.


If you're thinking to expand the robot in the future, I would recommend a chassis kit like the Magician chassis and an Arduino compatible board that has shield compatibility. But you can use the motors from the SHR and build your own chassis. If you want better motors with built in encoders, take a look at the Faulhaber motors from the Electronic Goldmine. I've used them in a few robots and I really like them. Get the hubs and wheels for them from Pololu. While you're there, get a ball caster as well.

Hi all,

I think I will go with Ro-Bot-X suggestions and build the SHR. 

My cart so far:

2x GMW combo http://www.solarbotics.com/products/gmpw_deal/  15.96$  - What about the gear motor options I can choose from?

2x A 4 AA battery holder: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/bholdaa_4_cell/  5.50$  - 2x because it's cheap

1x A HXT900 servo: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/25500/   5.85$

1x A Sharp distance sensor: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/35238/  11.95$

2x A Sharp sensor cable: http://www.solarbotics.com/products/45075/   3.90$    SOLD OUT / What's the alternative for this part?

What I'm really struggling is, is with the controller board. As I have no clue what the difference between all those boards are.
The chassis will have to wait, I want to expand the Robot for sure, but I don't know in which direction yet. 

I'm thinking of reading this book as well, as it seems to be pretty good to get a basic understanding of Robotics:

Is it any good?