Let's Make Robots!

Help me design a starter robotics kit!

I'm planning on putting together an Arduino-based robotics kit and would like your input as to what should go in it. The kit should contain everything a student or hobbyist needs to make a basic robot. So far I've tentatively come up with the following:

1 x Arduino Compatible UNO R3
1 x 3ft USB cable
2 x SpringRC SM-S4303R Continuous Rotation Servo
1 x HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Distance Sensor
1 x 4-Pin Male to Female Cable
1 x Small Solderless Breadboard (400 contacts)
1 x Breadboard Jumper Wire Bundle (70-pack)
1 x 4" Black Nylon Zip-Ties
1 x 6 x AA Battery Holder with DC Power Jack (9V)
2 x Limit Switch
1 x Break Away Headers (Single Row, Straight)
2 x Mini Push Button Switch
2 x Photoresistor
5 x 5mm Red LED (ultra bright)
5 x 5mm Green LED (ultra bright)
10 x 1/4W 330Ω Carbon Film Resistor
10 x 1/4W 1kΩ Carbon Film Resistor

Pic: http://www.foxytronics.com/gallery/image/138-tentative-arduino-robotics-kit/

The cost of the above would be about $63.

What do you think of the proposed kit? Do you have any suggestions on things that should be added or replaced?

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It seems everyone is saying you need a chassis and wheels. When I started in LMR one of my first tutorials was how to make this cheap, re-usable robot base. The breadboard and battery holders make the chassis with continuous rotation servos driving the wheels.

Very slick! Does the double sided tape really hold the servos on well?

I made a robot with components similar to the ones in the list of tentative kit parts above (it had three ultrasonics and better wheels, though), and I used zip ties and electrical tape to hold them on :-) I don't have pictures of it, but here are two videos of it solving a maze and following a wall:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sLwJEyHSLCY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VShBzFMmcMk&feature=youtu.be

Thanks for all of your input.

 

How about something to mount all that stuff to?    I can imagine buying this cool kit to build my first robot, opening the package, and having nothing to build it on.  Oh, and a couple wheels might be nice, too.

I've always made chassis out of common household things, like cardboard boxes (cardboard actually works really well). A chassis and wheels would raise the price of the kit quite a bit, but I'll see if I can source cheap ones from someplace. (side note, the servos come with round attachments that work fine as wheels, the only downside being that they don't have rubber on the edges and so they slip on smooth surfaces).

 

Another thing I would add is a cheap-o 9g servo for the HC-SR04 to ride on.

Why would you put the ultrasonic sensor on a servo?

 

I think a Sensor Shield like the V5 edition would be great in a kit. I agree with bdk6, Wheels and a base as well.

Interesting.. So the Sensor Shield doesn't actually add any capability to the Arduino, but it makes it easier to plug stuff in?

 

How about some stand-offs to mount the boards to the chassis. If its Arduino, I don't see how a kit could be complete without some 10kΩ resistors for pull-up/down purposes, and if you have LDRs in there you should probably include 4.7k Ω ones too. Also, make sure the headers are the "extra long" variety. I have both regular and extra long, but I have in the past made the mistake of using up the long ones in soldered projects while they are far more useful in breadboarding. An extra servo for the sensor (and a special mount like CtC provides from RocketBrand) is very nice too, but not absolutely necessary-a round ZTR bot isn't going to get as much out of it as one that can wedge itself against things, so keep that in mind in re:chassis.

Stand-offs, 10k and 4.7k resistors are a great idea, I'll definitely add those. Good point on the headers -- I was going to include standard headers (they're all I have), but maybe I should stock the extra-long headers since they probably stay in breadboards better.

You are going to sell it as a Robot building kit, without any base or wheels it's an Arduino starter kit.

You could at the very least include two CD's (or tell them to get two) four 30mm or so standoffs with screws. Some DBL sided sticky tape to put the servos on with. Good step by steps on putting it together and maybe so pre-written starter code for them to download and use (nothing fancy) As for wheels, maybe some craft store 50-60mm wood rounds and rubber bands. They could mount the servo horns on to them fairly easy.

The sensor shield does give an easy way to add the servos as well as other items to the robot. It also gives you a seperate place to power them from, aside from the uC board. Running everthing off the uC is a BIG issue with beginners.

With an extra 9g servo, you add scanning abilities to the robot. Without it, you have to waste power turning a scanning. Just my favored way of building a small rover. Also, it looks cool with it's little "radar" going whilst it's driving around.

One more thing... If you plan to sell it as a Robot kit, you might want to plan for some time to field support questions. I look at it this way; The user is buying what they think is a robot that they have to put together... Things go wrong (in their mind) and they will look to you as the seller to fix it or guide them. Something like this may take a lot of time and not make it worth selling.  Just a thought.

Well, I'm including lots of robotics components, like the servos and sensors, so it's definitely a robotics kit. As far as wheels go, I wasn't planning on including wheels in the kit because it would raise the price by about $7, but if you look at this picture you can see the round servo attachment I've been talking about that works well as a wheel: http://www.foxytronics.com/products/images/68/large-continuous-rotation-servo-563.jpg

As far as the chassis goes, again to keep the price down I was planning on suggesting that it be made out of materials available at home, like cardboard. Making a chassis would just be part of the "experience" of building the robot. I don't want to make it too easy :P

Great suggestion on step-by-step instructions and sample code. I've been planning on writing a guide on my website that explains how to make a basic robot, kind of like the one on this website, but specifically for this kit.

Totally agree on providing support. I have a support forum on my site and am planning on helping people with their projects and answering their questions on there.

If you live in a large enough city, you might consider going to a local sign shop and asking if you can buy some of their "drop plastic" to use.  They'll probably have acrylic, which is okay if you have a CNC or want to make everything pretty straight cut, or they might have extruded PVC (brand names Sintra, Komatex, etc.) which is pretty strong, durable and lightweight-and easy to cut with a hobby knife.  As far as the "wheels" that come with the servos, they're usually of a pretty minor diameter.  Still, you could probably find rubber bands of a diameter and width about right to stretch and around them and give them some grip.  

If you include a breadboard and the extra long headers, it's probably about the same functionality you'd get out of the sensor shield except the builder would get a better idea of what was going on with each sensor/actuator (ie, that you have to include power and ground as well as the signal to get everything to work.)

Rubber bands are a good idea to give the round servo attachments some grip. I'll try to see if I can find some the right size.. Other then lack of grip, the attachments actually work very well as wheels..

Sounds like it's probably not worth it to add the sensor shield, then, since I'm trying to keep the price as low as possible.

Thanks for your input!

How about some stand-offs to mount the boards to the chassis. If its Arduino, I don't see how a kit could be complete without some 10kΩ resistors for pull-up/down purposes, and if you have LDRs in there you should probably include 4.7k Ω ones too. Also, make sure the headers are the "extra long" variety. I have both regular and extra long, but I have in the past made the mistake of using up the long ones in soldered projects while they are far more useful in breadboarding. An extra servo for the sensor (and a special mount like CtC provides from RocketBrand) is very nice too, but not absolutely necessary-a round ZTR bot isn't going to get as much out of it as one that can wedge itself against things, so keep that in mind in re:chassis.

I think a Sensor Shield like the V5 edition would be great in a kit. I agree with bdk6, Wheels and a base as well.

 

How about something to mount all that stuff to?    I can imagine buying this cool kit to build my first robot, opening the package, and having nothing to build it on.  Oh, and a couple wheels might be nice, too.