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Here’s an easy-to-build robot base that combines a custom Arduino development board with inexpensive motors and tank-style tracks. It even comes with its own lithium polymer power pack and self-charging circuit, so you don’t need to add batteries.

To construct the DFRobotShop Rover you have to first assemble the twin motor gearbox and rubber treads -— both are
pre-packaged products from Tamiya. Then it’s just a handful of screws and plastic rivets. Total build time is about an hour. Tip from me: use only your fingers when assembling the rubber treads; sharp tools can tear the rubber.

The Rover’s electronics are essentially an Arduino with a motor driver circuit. I recommend adding a bare-bones Arduino prototyping shield, and with some velcro tape, the shield will also work as a slip-proof shelf for the LiPoly battery.

To make the robot truly autonomous you’ll want to add sensors, like a Ping ultrasonic distance ranger. Pre-drilled holes at the front of the Rover accept Lynxmotion Servo Erector Set parts, and RobotShop promises that on the next version (available Fall 2011), they’ll add a prototyping area on the front end.

A final word of advice: consider swapping out the 3V motors included with the Tamiya gearbox kit for more efficient 6V versions (RobotShop #RB-Sbo-50); they’re under $2 each.

Gordon McComb

Gordon McComb

Gordon McComb has been building robots since the 1970s and wrote the bestselling Robot Builder’s Bonanza. You can read his plans to take over the world with an army of mind-controlled automatons, along with other musings, at robotoid.com.


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