Let's Make Robots!

Best Arduino (compatible) board?

I want to make the next generation of the "Start Here"-instructions be based on Arduino instead of Picaxe.

Some will say that it was about freakin time, but so far the advantage of the Picaxe has been that I could chose a single board that "did it all": Hook up Motors, Servos, sensors and everything.

This, and the fact that the Picaxe Basic Language needs very little introduction, made it the choise - even though the Arduino series has been a lot more popular recent years.

However, now there are such boards as The uBotino V2 Kit that does it all: You can connect servos and motors and sensors and all.

It is not that I mind the Arduino shields, it is a nice way of thinking IMHO, but for a start robot, I need AT LEAST motor control on the main board.

But it is a open source jungle out there, so I need your knowledge;

What other boards are there, that at least has motor control on the board, and even better if it can also control servos, and or other stuff? And has this board good community support, and can it be purchased assambled?

Thanks friends :)

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Good points, and I have to admit that I have never used FTDI cables before, just a normal USB cable. But from what I can see, isn't it easy to plug it in the wrong way round or bend the pin headers ? Surely a USB cable is more beginner friendly ?

Did you notice the little snip of green wire on my breadboard? That is a TWD marker (This Way, Dummy!).

I recently switched all my LiPo batteries over to a Dean's #1009, because that is the keyed connector the local hobby shop had the most of when I visited them after a close call using a simple 2 pin interface. There is something to be said for connectors that make you do it right.

If needed I can replace the standard FTDI connector with a polarized one like this:

and also include in the package the mating connector housing and crimp pins. I can also offer the Prolific USB-serial cable already fitted with a polarized connector. The advantage of this polarized connector design is that you can always plug in a regular connector without damaging the polarizing tab. I'll try to make the price for a uBotino + USB-serial cable to $35, which is a better price than the Arduino because it includes the h-bridge. An Arduino + Motor shield will cost you a little over $40.

You may want to take into consideration that a 12 servo board called uServotino is on my way for testing. Similar form factor like the uBotino, but designed to be used with servos. One can use it for multi servo robots or for a rolling robot that uses continuous rotation servos for driving. Easy to swap in place of the uBotino and it will be cheaper as it does not include the h-bridge.

Anyway, people who want to build just a simple robot may use a dedicated robot controller. People that want to develop further, is best to stick with a form factor compatible with the shields.


I am a little confused about the servo situation. Is it just increasing the number you can run? To run a servo on the Arduino, I use a PWM pin. And some wire. Power can be an issue if you have a bunch or overdrive even just a single small one (DAMHIKT :) ).

I am currently only using a couple of shields (but only 2 of my 5 Arduinos can even use shields)  - a stackable prototyping shield on both my "standard form (plus - they are MEGAs)" Arduinos and an LCD shield stacked on top of one because I am lazy and did not want to figure out a better way to mount the LCD (just set the whole stack in a clear case and I am done). The prototyping shields are just a place to solder stuff after I got it working on the breadboard so it won't come flying off in use. I think the primary audience for using shields is tinkerers who will make something, take it apart and make something else and keep reusing the boards for various purposes. A lot of them are not stackable, so it does not offer ultimate flexibility.

Anyway, at this point I am thinking that maybe I should just sit back and watch where this goes and just do a blog or tip or whatever on using ESCs and servos with PWM.

And I have a link to one that isn't mine. This is an outstanding writeup by patrickmccabe 


and it includes a lot of info about using the Arduino with an ESC based vehicle and other options. No, it isn't a beginner topic, but it would be silly for me to post a how to on using an ESC when Patrick has already done such a great article.


I say stick with the Arduino Uno because it is the standard. Even the start here robot is not that easy. There might be some soldering involved or something but nothing too hard. Give them an Uno and a motor driver breakout board:

This would eliminate the need for wheels. What I'm thinking of is a pair of servo's to lift the front of a platform and move it left or right and another two (mounted at 90 degrees to those to go forward or backward. It would be a very simple to assemble and be cheap. In fact I bet you could simplify it down to two servos and a belly for balance.


The idea of another "type" of robot than the one we know from the present "SH-bot", is OK to me.

However, it is not made as it is by random. It is carefully considered to give the complete newbee an understanding of sensors, servos, motors programming etc.

If I where to scale down on something, it would be servos. because wunning a motor is so fundemental, that IMHO I would consider turning a servo step 2 - if these things had to be devided, and one thing thought before the other.

However, this time I will start by blinking an LED, not reading distance as I did last time. Possibly also making a sound before moving on :) So there will be diferences, but I do not think motors are cut away, but servos might be, time will tell :)

So, considering that running a motor is so critical, would not a shield dedicated to that purpose be more informative to the new builder? Having the motor controller on the same pcb as the micro controller may hide the fact that we need a circuit to support an external device (like a motor). Servos simply have this circuit in the package.


to hack a couple of cheap servos for continuos rotation and dispense with the motor shield or arduino board with motor driver and just use the standard board. Then it becomes 2 tutorials in one and more tags???