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Topic: The BackYard Explorer Project (Read 4073 times) previous topic - next topic


Growing up I always liked watching the little things scurry in and out of the ground and over the blades of grass. I thought what an interesting world it must be. So many different bugs going here and there in their daily business.

A few days ago I was looking eye level at the yeard and watched at the corner of the house where some rocks were and moss had grown up on the concrete wall.

I then got to thinking how can the World of Bugs be brought into the classroom as a show and tell event that would not only get kids outside exploring their world and away from non-educational things but would also allow them to create Arduino Robots to explore their yards.

Thus the Back Yard Explorer Project was born.

The Back Yard Explorer Project is a project where the explorer must first build their exploration facilities to explore.

The first facility would be the Sentry Tower. The Sentry Tower would stand four inches in height and would contain a mini camera similar to those cameras found in a Toshiba Laptop that are used for facial recognition.


The Sentry Tower would have a transmitter where it could send its images captured in still footage or taken in real time to a monitor nearby where the images could then be recorded on a DVD for later viewing.

The next facility would the Advanced Sentry Point Tower. The  ASPT would be a basic mini web cam such as the Toshiba mini cam that would could be placed low to the ground and then connected to the Sentry Tower so that images from far away and closer to the ground could be captured and then transferred to the Sentry Tower for archiving.

The next device would be a rover that would run off of a single AAA battery and would be tracked. The rover would have the same Toshiba Mini Web Cam placed on it that would transfer the images to the Sentry Tower for archiving.

This project would be a great way for kids to get out into the world to explore the little things in life as well as learning how to build robots and come to a better understanding of the environment around them.

Does anyone have any base ideas on how these facilities and rover could be built?


The Sentry Towers electrical power would come from a regular clock battery that is used with many PC's to provide low end power to keep such programs running.


That sounds like a really cool idea!  I wish I could help, but I'm new to Arduino myself.  I'm trying to drum up ideas for a project for a class I'm taking this semester.  I'm not sure this would fit the bill, but it would be super cool to work on.

Good luck!


Sounds like a good project. Tamiya makes a small motorized base with catepillar tracks
that should be powerful enough to carry a small RF camera around, and hopefully
negotiate the grass in the yard, provided it's been cut recently. Jameco sells such a
base, but there are many others that sell the Tamiya motor/tracks.


Eg, RF cameras, you need a monitor with AV-input to display, or PC with video
capture module:


You can operate the robot using XBee for remote RF control to an Arduino board
with motor shield, or else replace the Tamiya motors with continuous rotation
servos and use an RC Airplane transmitter/receiver.



The Sentry Tower would have a transmitter where it could send its images captured in still footage or taken in real time to a monitor nearby where the images could then be recorded on a DVD for later viewing.

The Sentry Towers electrical power would come from a regular clock battery that is used with many PC's to provide low end power to keep such programs running.

Have you actually tried powering a transmitter of any sort using a tiny clock battery? How long before the battery went dead, and the kids chuck the stupid thing and go back to the XBox?
The art of getting good answers lies in asking good questions.


Well in that case PaulS I would change the clock battery out with a rechargeable battery and photovaic solar panels to the vehicle so that the battery could be operated on the power of the sun during the day where extra electrical power would be stored in capacitors for use during the night.

Does Arduino make capacitors?

I am new to Arduino but have taken a few courses in Computer Enginneering and understand the logic gate system of function.

I also have a few other ideas if you would continue reading on and maybe a new era for Arduino will emerge from the grassy plains.

I'm a Bad Robot.


Jun 01, 2012, 06:33 pm Last Edit: Jun 01, 2012, 06:35 pm by dryson Reason: 1
                Your vehicle design is basically what I am going for with the rover version. I want to use a small Toshiba webcam attached to a servo that will rotate the camera, oops another pop-up, new laptop user here, 360 degrees on the z coordinate while having a positive z,y value of 35 degrees and a negative z,y value of 20 degrees.

The vehicle needs to small and close to the ground to get into places where a larger vehicle is not able to go.

This way the camera can get the shot it needs at any angle.

Also does LEGO make any type of rover system that could be used as the vehicle chassis?


Creating an Arduino Submersible.

First off the Arduino would need to be able to open and close hatches on the ballast tanks so that water could be allowed in to sink the sub to a certain depth as well as being able to introduce pressurized air into the same tanks to force the water out to cause the sub to surface.

This would be the main difficulty with the project. Creating the ballast system.

The next part of the project would be to create a motive system where propellers were turned by the engine to provide forward and revers thrust with rudders being added to facilitate turning.

The Arduino board would need to be encapsulated in a water proof pod so that it would not get wet and short out. Such a pod would need to be able to not allow condensation on the inside of the pod that would short the Arduino out.

I think the control system of the Arduino would be easy to create and could be either remotely or wired controlled.

Any suggestions on how to go about building the first Arduino Subermsible?


It sounds like you are trying to do a version of the Spy Gear Video Car VX6.  If you aren't familiar with it, here is manufacturer's link: <a href="http://www.spygear.net/spy-gear/item.php?key=83">http://www.spygear.net/spy-gear/item.php?key=83</a>.

Most all in this group would feel that you want to go to the next step and have the kids build it themselves, but it may make sense to get one spy gear car as a prototype to see whether you want to go in that direction before you spend a lot of time and money building a system that might not work with the kids.  Then of course, do it better, with more features.

Like any ambitious project, you want to break the project down into smaller parts, and solve each problem separately, as you've mentioned.

I suspect you will need more juice than a single AA battery will provide, certainly for an Arduino based solution you will need 3.3 or 5 volts.  For motors, you probably will need more.

In terms of cameras, there are various cameras that plug into Arduino systems, but I suspect you will soon run into size issues in terms of fitting things in the microprocessor's memory.  Instead of trying to do camera processing on the Arduino, it may make sense to have a camera that can send video wirelessly to a base station, such as some baby/nanny monitors, or even cell phones.  Then you use the arduino just to power the rover.


I like the Spy Gear Car very basic and easy to build for a young engineer looking to show his girlfriend what he had built her. 

I do like the idea of keeping the project simple for the young kids. Stack the modules onto the LEGO Build Board, which by the way if Arduino was adaptive enough they would enter into a contract with LEGO to produce Build Boards where Arduino Modules can be simply screwed onto the LEGO Build Board where other Build Boards with other Arduino Modules can then be snapped onto the main board, but I digress.

The more advanced kits would involve the builder learning how to incorporate the camera components into the Arduino's Processor.

I also have the idea of using the Spy Gear Car as a make shift boat. The tires would be hollow plastic filled with air that when the car went off road into the water the propeller would be turned on thus making two uses from the same vehicle for land and sea use.

I think the kids would have building their boat/car or the DUCK as it would be called so that when it came time to use the DUCK the fruits of their labor would be a triple reward.


It sounds like you have a lot of projects in mind with each one being quite complex.

PaulS mention the battery problem but there are other issues, for example how do you know how deep the sub is so you can modulate the ballast?

Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com


for submarine ballast, forget flooding tanks!
These days model subs use a bladder, just like fish do.
It's either on a lead screw or uses compressed air to force water in or out.
The other way to do it is make you sub' have neutral buoyancy, then use dive planes and forward speed to dive.
Or, again neutral buoyancy and use small thrusters to submerge.

Some of the ROV designs these days a re pretty cool, using bilge pumps for thrusters.

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