Gear up for the Make: Robot Build, sponsored by Jameco

Education Robotics Technology
Gear up for the Make: Robot Build, sponsored by Jameco

We here at MAKE are thrilled to have teamed up with the fine folks at Jameco to bring you The Make: Robot Build. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll be featuring a series of tutorials here on the site about the basics of robot building, from overall design considerations to mechanical construction, electronics, and programming. The information in these tutorials and the build contest are designed so that anyone can participate, even if you don’t know anything about electronics or robots! On March 27, we’ll officially launch The Make: Robot Build contest, and over the ensuing weeks, each week, we’ll cover a different subsystem of robot construction (drive train, controllers, sensors, etc.) and help contestants in building these subsystems on their bot. Builders will post progress images to the MAKE Flickr pool and we have a topic set up in the MAKE Forums for discussing your project.

The Goal: Build a CoasterBot!
Coaster-Bot.gifThe goal of this series and the contest is to teach you how to build a simple robot and for you to learn all of the various aspects of design and the mechanical and electronic systems used in robots. Contestants will build “CoasterBots,” mini robot development platforms, made using CD/DVD media as the main body components (“coaster” being slang for a dead/damaged CD/DVD). Your goal is to create a CoasterBot that can navigate a space on its own, avoiding obstacles, and that is designed so that additional sensor systems (proximity, heat, light, sound, etc.) can be added “on top” of this obstacle-avoidance behavior. Contestants are free to use the CD/DVD media in any way they choose. Extra points will be given for creativity and innovation in the overall design.

We will have a two-week prep phase where we’ll post overview articles here about basic robot design and construction and to allow time for readers to start planning out their design and to gather needed parts and supplies. Then, each week, we’ll cover a different build phase, from design and chassis/drive train, to microcontrollers and sensors. The final two weeks will be devoted to finishing up the bots, fleshing out your documentation, and submitting your project(s). Please see the timeline and further details on The Make: Robot Build contest page. You can enter as many bots as you like, but you can only do a single entry for each one.

The Contest and Prizes
The contest will begin at 12:01am PDT on March 27, 2010 and will end at 11:59 p.m. PDT on May 7, 2010. Winners will be announced on May 14th, 2010.

Judging Criteria
The robots entered into the contest will be judged on the following criteria:

  • 50% Overall Robot Design
  • 20% Creative Use of Materials and Innovation of Design
  • 20% Project Documentation
  • 10% Degree of Improvement (from early phases of the competition)

The Prizes

  • The Grand Prize is $500 Cash (in the form of a pre-paid credit card) and a free ticket to Maker Faire Bay Area 2010. The $500 can be used towards travel to the Faire, as the winning robot will be featured at Maker Faire. The Grand Prize winner will also receive a Jameco jacket.
  • Second Prize is a Parallax Stingray Robot and a Jameco T-shirt.
  • Third Prize is a $100 Jameco gift certificate, along with a Jameco T-shirt.

Every contestant who finishes the robot build and documents his or her finished project will receive a Maker’s Notebook from the Maker Shed.

The Robot Build Newsletter
We’ll be mailing out a newsletter each week of the contest with the latest contest details, tutorials, images from contestants’ designs, build tips, technical advice, and more. We’ll also be sending out word of the final contest submission form through the newsletter, so if you want to be a contestant, you need to subscribe. All we need is your name and email address (which we’ll keep confidential):

The Jameco Robot Build Kit Bundle
Jameco has put together a core parts bundle to make it easy to gather the necessary parts for the contest. It includes a Solarbotics Ardweeny Arduino microcontroller, a Solarbotics Breadboard Voltage Regulator, an L293D motor controller, two Hi-Tec HS-322HD servomotors, two Parallax BOE-BOT/Sumobot wheel/tire sets, two lever switches, a breadboard, battery holders, wire, hardware, all sorts of goodies for building your coasterbot. You do not have to buy this kit to participate, and it won’t be counted in the judging, but we at MAKE and the folks at Jameco put it together to make getting started in this contest as easy as possible. You can purchase your Jameco bundle and other parts here.

BTW: In the Jameco parts bundle above, the “Ardweeny kit” is the Solarbotics Ardweeny Arduino, the world’s smallest Arduino microcontroller, and the Solarbotics Breadboard Voltage Regulator is also included in the kit (parts no. 2115750 on that list).

Check out the Make: Robot Build contest page for more info, the build timeline, and full contest rules. Matt Mets and I will be heading up the project/contest. We think this is going to be a whole lot of fun and we hope you’ll join in!

10 thoughts on “Gear up for the Make: Robot Build, sponsored by Jameco

  1. John Baichtal says:

    Awesome! This is gonna be fun!

  2. MauiMaker says:

    Do you have a timetable for when your series of tutorials will be released over the next two weeks? I’d like to get some folks to gather at our local Hackerspace ( to work through them together. It would be nice to post some times in advance so people can plan – and warn significant others when they will be away.


    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      The tutorial articles on the site will come out at least once a week, each Wednesday, starting in two weeks (3/24). These tutorials will be excerpted and linked to, in the Robot Build Newsletters, which will come out each week. The first newsletter will go out next Friday (3/19) and will have some preliminary robot basics/overview and some things to start thinking about for your robot’s design. After that, the newsletters will also come each each Wednesday (through May 5th). Contest closes on the 7th.

      We’ll post links to all of the relevant blog posts and newsletter back issues on the Build Contest Page, so folks hopefully won’t miss anything.

      That’s awesome that you want to do the build as a group. We’re hoping people will do that, both in local hackerspaces, and virtually, via the Forums ( and Flickr. It’d be great to have people discussing various aspects of building, trading ideas, offering advice, etc. We kept the build goals modest, ’cause we wanted the project/contest to be as inclusive as possible, but we’re really excited to see what folks can come up with within the constraints given.

  3. Shadyman says:

    “Please do not participate if you are not a legal resident of the United States and located in the United States at the time of entry.”

    Not even for those who normally reside in the US, but are going to school in Canada? Well… at least they asked nicely :D

  4. Tom says:

    This sucks, so just because I don’t stay in the US I can’t enter?

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).