Let's Make Robots!

Stripped Laptop Robot Project

Processor for the bot

So earlier last night I was itching to do something robotic-y while waiting for my FOREVER order from dealextreme.com. I've been very curious about the embedded PC bots using things like Mini-ITX boards, Ras-Pi's, BeagleBoards, etc. There were a few old laptops laying around, and thought, why not use one of them?

I did some research online and I know there are MANY robot chassis acting as a carrier for a laptop as its primary controller. My issue is, I personally dislike these types of machines. I love tiny robots!

So I stripped apart one of my viable laptops, and viola! It's a really crappy, old Dell Inspiron PIII @ 700mhz with 256mb ram (which I'm going to upgrade). It has Windows XP, a 20gb(?) HDD, and DVD burner(detatched), Serial/Parallel/External keyboard+mouse ports and 3 USB(!) ^_^.

Unfortunately I managed to break the thin connector that runs from the back of the LCD to the mobo, but I might be able to source a replacement if I really want the screen on the bot (no screen = less power consumption though). I kept the base plastic simply because it mounts everything nicely and keeps it secure. I'm thinking of trimming away the plastic that extends out to the front for more room, however. The next issue will be how to power this via external battery. The Li-ion one is a HEAVY monster.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
This was my first growd-up robot project: http://letsmakerobots.com/node/31715 I used a $40 eBay PowerBook that was so cheap because its display no longer worked. That was to my advantage because with the form factor I'd designed (okay, happened into) it actually fit better without the top of the clamshell. Ripping it off was quite the adventure. In the end I was quite literally cutting pieces of the chassis with hacksaws, rotary tools, my teeth... Anyway, without the screen, you save quite a lot of battery power. Most of a laptop battery's energy goes to the backlight or the LEDs. If the unit is going to be mobile, I guess the question is WTF do you need the display for most of the time anyway? Are you going to follow it around and read command lines ;-)? For the instances when you do need to see what's going on in its pretty little head, you can use an external monitor much as you would an SBC or better yet, use VNC. Of course, in your case you may want to repair the screen as a challenge, or just on principal. However, I thought I'd throw some options at you.

I'm not sure about dell but from my experience with IBM/Lenovo ThinkPads the connecting tape/cabe should be replaceable, it is generally not soldered directly to the motherboard. Even then you may get away with soldering an "old" IDE cable from a hard drive instead.

Yea I ended up buying a replacement cable for about $4 on eBay. I don't even really need the lcd screen, but it might be cool to display on the bot itself for easy debugging. I've been disabled processes and streamlining the OS to increase stability and performance. Even ordered a second Li-ion battery.. even though these are heavy enough as it is.

Now just to figure out the power and motor drive situation...