Let's Make Robots!

Prototype robot car

Navigate by sudden deceleration (collision sensing)

This is a prototype of a robot car I am designing for the classroom. The idea is to create a kit, cheap and simple enough for the classroom with enough educational value to challenge students for a semester.

Most robots use a differential skid steer system, I decided to use a car chassis which provides the additional challenge of 3 point turns.

The steering is driven by a DC motor with a potentiometer providing feedback. This allows the steering to be precisely controlled with suitable code.

The car is 75mm wide, 150mm long and about 60mm high. The large flat area at the front is ideal for adding a small breadboard.

Bumper switches have been replaced by the 3-axis accelerometer which can detect the magnitude and direction of a collision or impact when hit by another robot.

Using the accelerometer provides a number of challenges. Firstly the results must be filtered to reduce noise. Secondly I found that when the car does collide the body vibrates for a short period. This vibration must also be filtered in order to get an accurate reading.The accelerometer is also useful for detecting inclines and determining if the car is in danger of tipping over.

Four IR LEDs and phototransitors are mounted on the sensor PCB at the front of the car. These allow the car to follow a line and detect edges.

The body is made from laser cut acrylic panels and the aluminium chassis is from a previously discontinued solar car. The heart of the car is DAGU's new Micro Magician robot controller which has a dual 1A FET "H" bridge and the 3-axis accelerometer built in.

Currently I am learning to create libraries for Arduino so I can make some features easier to use. I have also had 1 teacher request the inclusion of an encoder.

I would love to put a mouse sensor underneath as this would measure distance, speed and direction (for steering calibration). The big problem is that the mouse sensor needs to be very close to the ground which limits ground clearance considerably.

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Hey OddBot, nice car you've built there! I have a suggestion for your mouse sensor, mount it in the middle of the front axle, perhaps on a sled hinged at the front and wheeled at the back so it keeps a constant height towards the ground but allow to climb over obstacles instead of getting trapped. Being at the front, the sensor will allow both speed and steering control.


If I do install a mouse sensor then there is a hole in the chassis, originally intended for a miniature servo that is in a perfect position. This would allow the steering to be corrected as well as measuring speed/distance.

I have already experimented with using mouse sensors in the past to replace encoders. While they are more prone to accumlative errors they are cheaper, easier to use than a quadrature encoder, can measure 2 axis's simultaneously and still only need 2 data pins.

Very cool compact design.

Were you referring to the car or the controller?