Coming from BasicStamp robots to Arduino... HELP!

Hi everyone-

So I've been dabbling in BasicStamp kits for a little bit now, but nothing too serious. I have the Board of Education Robot (BOEBot) kit, and was able to put that together and program it without many problems. I love the way the whole BOEBot thing was put together, where I got the robot, the software, and an actual manual showing me how to put the two together.

Now, I'm seeing that the wave of the future is the Arduino chip, so I'm switching gears. My problem is, I can't seem to find a kit like the BOEBot set for Arduino. I've found lots of Arduino projects for sale, but none for robotics. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place?

So if anyone out there can point me to a good Arduino kit for robotics, I'd appreciate it. I want something with an actual manual and a robot with multiple sensors to play with, hopefully under $200.

Many many thanks!

Hi everyone-

Hello, and welcome!

So I’ve been dabbling in BasicStamp kits for a little bit now, but nothing too serious. I have the Board of Education Robot (BOEBot) kit, and was able to put that together and program it without many problems. I love the way the whole BOEBot thing was put together, where I got the robot, the software, and an actual manual showing me how to put the two together.

Parallax is quite good at this, aren’t they? I only wish they had chosen to support their products in an open-source manner, instead of closed and proprietary with Windows; I might’ve stayed with them had they done that!

Now, I’m seeing that the wave of the future is the Arduino chip, so I’m switching gears.

Not sure it is so much a “wave of the future”, but more so that because of the open-source nature of the product (aside from the microcontroller itself) makes it super-easy to port to alternative development platforms like the Mac and Linux; you’re not locked into a “Windows-only” paradigm. This is what caused me to move away from the Basic Stamp 2; I was using it OK using the 32-bit Linux byte code compiler library, but when I moved to a 64-bit distro, it no longer worked; the library was a contracted out piece, Parallax had lost touch with the programmer (and didn’t seem to care otherwise), and the library itself was statically linked against various 32-bit libraries under Linux that made it impossible to use in a 64-bit system. Oh, and Parallax no longer had access to the source code. Nice.

My problem is, I can’t seem to find a kit like the BOEBot set for Arduino. I’ve found lots of Arduino projects for sale, but none for robotics. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place?

There are kits, but have you thought about simply replacing the BOEBot’s “brains” instead? Everything should work, I would think…

So if anyone out there can point me to a good Arduino kit for robotics, I’d appreciate it. I want something with an actual manual and a robot with multiple sensors to play with, hopefully under $200.

How about something like this?:

http://www.robotshop.com/dfrobotshop-rover-tracked-robot-basic-kit-3.html

The only downside to this kit is the fact that the “Arduino” is integrated into the chassis of the robot; I am not sure if that will be a problem or not for you. A lot of us like a more “free-standing” Arduino that allows us to use the system to develop other projects; generally, when we want to make the device “permanent”, we look into creating what is called a “standalone Arduino”, consisting of the bare-bones needed to run the ATMega microcontroller, and perhaps some headers to program it later if we need to (or at least we socket the chip so it can be easily removed and reprogrammed).

You might also check out their other offerings; there are also other vendors out there (I have found RobotShop’s prices to be on the high side, but they seem to have good product otherwise - though I don’t have any person experience with them).

You might also take this as an opportunity to expand your skills and build a robot up from parts yourself, rather than getting a kit. You already know you need a vehicle of some sort with wheels and motors. You also know you need a microcontroller (a standard Arduino will work fine for a small rover). Finally, you’ll want some sensors and maybe a few other bits and pieces.

You can easily do all of this for under $200.00 with some careful consideration and planning.

Also note that while the standard Arduino may seem “expensive”, the actual microcontroller (ATMega328 for most implementations) is not really that expensive by itself (less than $10.00 in most cases, even with the bootloader installed - which isn’t absolutely needed, but if you go without it, you will need a separate programmer for AVR microcontrollers to use it); plus, there are many different options for the “carrier board” (which is really what the Arduino itself is, coupled with the bootloader software); some exist which are called “bare bones”; small and cheap PCBs that have only the minimum parts needed to make a usable Arduino system (some are optimized to allow the device to plug into a breadboard). Then you have the various forms of Arduinos and clones that exist (like the Nano) that use the SMT form of the microcontroller to make a much smaller package. There are also many other options available that use larger processors available from Atmel (like the Arduino Mega, which uses the ATMega1280)…

As you can see, there are a ton of options - you will also find this group on the forums to be really helpful (provided you always post your code and/or schematic that you’re having problems with, and be polite and helpful - we don’t really take to freeloaders and leechers here - so if you are willing to help us, we’re willing to help you).

Many many thanks!

I hope this post helps you decide - welcome to using the Arduino! Good luck, and have fun!

:slight_smile:

Thanks for the reply. I've actually gotten an Arduino board to mess around with, and done the basic things, like making an LED flash and the like.

My problem is I'm hoping for something comprehensive like the books that come with the BOEBot.

For example, the typical structure of a chaper in the BOEBot book tends to be: 1- plug this part in here 2- explain what the part is and how it works 3- write this code 4- explain what the code does 5- explain how the two work together

And then these things build up upon each other pretty well, so by the end, you can tie together a servo to an LED to a piezo buzzer to a sensor (just a random example).

So I guess I like the way the book sorta held your hand through everything and guided you step-by-step. I've found a lot of stuff on coding for arduino, but nothing specific on learning bits of code, then putting those bits together to make a robot.

If you know of a place like that, please let me know. I'd love to be able to just go into a wiki and see that "X" is the code to make the servo spin when you plug it into "Y".

And if it doesnt exist, i'll have to do this the painful way and then write the book for other newbies like me :)

Also, I have things like the IR sensors and the PING sensor for the BOEBot. Would I be able to use these with the Arduino, and how difficult is it to figure out the coding to work with the Arduino?

Lastly, a big thing for me is having to learn the programming language, which I’m still working on. I never spent much time in C and its flavors, so my mind is still working on wrapping around it :slight_smile:

Ir should be pretty standard, I know there is a bunch of threads talking about the PING module also you should look into the playground

http://www.arduino.cc/playground/

and the software reference

http://arduino.cc/en/Reference/HomePage

And if it doesnt exist, i'll have to do this the painful way and then write the book for other newbies like me

I don't think I've ever seen a book like that, specifically geared to new users of the Arduino and robotics (or a specific robot platform); you very well may be the first (and if you are, it would likely be a useful resource for many out there).

I think if you have done everything you wanted to with the BOEBot, and you can write well enough to explain such details, I would say "go for it"; you likely have the skills needed to pursue such a project.

The only other reccomendation I can give you (but its not robotic specific) is the following online "book", written by one of the members (Mike Mc) of this forum, "The Complete Beginner's Guide to the Arduino":

http://www.arduino.cc/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1247637768

Use this link (from last page of forum posting) to download:

http://www.earthshineelectronics.com/files/ASKManualRev3.pdf

Select "save link as" or something like that; for some reason, it didn't want to open embedded in my browser, but it downloads fine.

:)

i'll have to do this the painful way

I'm sure you'd love nothing more than tinker without constraints :P The arduino stuff, at least the little bits I've read ::), don't tend to hold your hand like that, no. However, there is this fancy forum that has plenty of helpful people.

Thing is, I / we could write a whole book on making a specific robot.. but we're not selling the kit. And since this community is rather international, it might be difficult for one person to obtain all the specific parts of such a tutorial. That doesn't mean that you are limited to making less cool stuff, just that you'll need to do some research. Knowing what you want to make is a great start, if you don't know where to look for parts to get started on the project, just ask here on the forum :) There is a lot of info on the playground (which I personally find a real pain to search through) on lots of generic stuff, like LCD displays for instance (if you look this up on the playground, you'll notice lots of talk about the controller, so there are lots of LCD's that would be a pain in the behind to use, while others that use a common controller will be a breeze to get working!). This research and shopping is part of the fun imo :P Also shows that you're not limited to kits, and gives you that feel of 'I can interface everything with this chip!', which isn't too far from the truth :P

Hope this helped :)

Many thanks again for the replies, especially the "The Complete Beginner's Guide to the Arduino", thats pretty much what I was looking for, in addition to the Software Reference.

I've always been self taught for these things, but the Arduino resources tend to be pretty scattered. I'm not saying anything bad against that, it just reflects the open-source nature, and I think everything thats open-source is that way.

I also need to brush up on my electronics a bit, as I'm a graphic designer by trade, and dont have much electronics experience. Plus, I'm having surgery next week, and basically stuck in bed for a week and a half, so I'd love to have this as a project to tinker with.

Lastly, does anyone know if there's a list of Arduino groups from around the world? I'd like to find some like-minded Chicagoans and maybe find a store around here that would be good for robotics (already go to American Science and Surplus, that store is a shrine).

Thanks again everyone!

Lastly, does anyone know if there's a list of Arduino groups from around the world?

Well, there's the "Workshops" forum:

http://www.arduino.cc/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?board=workshops

You might also look for a Chicago "Hacker Space"...

I'd like to find some like-minded Chicagoans and maybe find a store around here that would be good for robotics (already go to American Science and Surplus, that store is a shrine).

AS&S isn't bad, though I've only seen their online offerings. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, we have two places that I like to go to from time-to-time; "Apache Reclamation and Electronics" and "Equipment Exchange". Both are grungy places to scrounge in (though Equipment Exchange tends to be cleaner - then again, they deal mainly in large pieces of industrial/electronic equipment), and are located on the south side of Phoenix, in a fairly industrial area.

Chicago likely has a similar area, with similar places (though whether they allow the public to shop at them is another story). Basically, if the area is one in which you wouldn't want to walk around in alone at night (and in some cases, the daytime too), there's probably something there with surplus/used/junk mechanical/electrical/electronic parts and assemblies...

:)