Building your own robot is one of the most satisfying things you can do. It combines mechanical, electrical, and programming skills together in a way few projects do.
I’ve been building robots for a couple of years now and love to expand my knowledge and skills by using different controller boards, motors, wheels, and sensors to detect the world around the robot.
Raspberry Pi robots are particularly impressive. The Raspberry Pi provides the robot with the full power of Linux and a plethora of Python libraries. With all of this power; it means we can add advanced machine learning, computer vision, and Internet connectivity into the mix. All this at an affordable price point and tiny form factor too.
Building Raspberry Pi robots from kits, such as Pimoroni’s Trilobot, or from a custom design such as Explora, is fun and helps develop skills such as programming in Python, mechanical design, and electronics. People love playing with robots and teaching them to perform tasks and move around the environment unaided.
Pimoroni Explorer pHAT
Explora uses the Pimoroni Explorer pHAT to control the motors and has a handy Python library to make this simple. The HAT is programmed in Python and uses sensors to avoid obstacles and follow your handExplora can also be remotely controlled over Wi-Fi.
Explora can detect objects in front of it using an HC-SR04 ultrasonic range finder module. These modules come in either a 5v version or a 3.3v version (HCSR04+ or HC-SR04P). The Explorer pHAT is 5v tolerant, but it’s best to get the HC-SR04+ or HC-SR04-P version to be on the safe side. Using the 5v version on a Raspberry Pi can damage the board.
Explora was designed using AutoDesk Fusion 360. Each piece is a discrete component to enable easier 3D printing. Fusion 360 makes it really easy to export the models into STL files, ready for slicing and then 3D printing. To slice the robot parts (creating the instructions for a 3D printer to print the part) from Fusion 360 I use Cura, and then upload it to OctoPrint to manage the print jobs. The 3D printed parts are designed to be quick and easy to print, and the whole thing is easy to assemble using a couple of screws and wire up.