Product Review: Arduino RobotBy Ryan Winters
Product Marketing Manager
The first official Arduino on wheelsMake way, make way; Arduino Robot coming through! I don't just mean a robot controlled with an Arduino, this is the first official programmable, motorized, dual-wheeling robot designed and supported by the company you have grown to love and trust. Unleash the robot from its box and it's nearly ready to roll. I mean unleash in the gentlest form because the box sort of unfolds like a paper flower and you don't want your robot's first movements to be a zero-g freefall.
How Do You Set It Up?
The Arduino robot comes fully assembled but requires a few finishing touches before you can get started. There is a paperboard covering to install on the underside to serve as a splash guard. Unbox the LCD/TFT color screen and install the included 2GB microSD card into the available slot on the TFT display. Install the disconnected rechargeable battery and hook it up to the included power adapter to top off the batteries. Arduino recommends a good three hours to fully charge the batteries, so this is a good opportunity to make sure you are using the most up to date software (IDE v1.0.5 or later) and thumb or scroll through the quick start guide.
How Well Equipped Is The New Arduino Robot?
There are two boards to the robot – a control board (top) and a motor board (bottom). Each board can be programmed independently, but as a beginner and in the provided lessons, you will just program the control board. The motor board is preprogrammed. The variety of inputs includes two potentiometers, a digital compass, five IR emitter/receiver floor sensors (for line following), five buttons, a microSD card reader, three I2C and eight TinkerKit™ input connectors for additional sensors. There is also a speaker, a TFT color screen and, of course, the two motors with rubber-treaded plastic wheels. All the inputs and outputs are accessible through the Robot library, which includes features like controlling speed and direction of the motors, sensing the current used by the motors, reading the state of the line following sensors (floor sensors), accessing I/O pins, controlling I2C and reading the state of various inputs.
How Easy Is It To Program?
That will depend on how familiar you are with Arduino and how much experience you've had with the new Robot library. This robot is designed for both robotics greenhorns and savvy roboticists hungry for a challenge. The box does caution that this is an educational product, not a toy, and is not intended for children under 8 years old. After you've gone through the quick-start guide, check out the Examples folder of the Arduino IDE. There are 14 sketches in the Learning portion that test or display the function of the speaker, compass, IR sensors, keyboard function using the potentiometer and motor tests. There are also an additional 11 sketches in the Explore folder to demonstrate the capabilities of the robot, such as calibrating the motors for better performance, making your robot follow lines, displaying your own pictures on the color LCD, turning the robot into an 8-bit beat box, using a TV-remote to send commands to the robot and even teaching your robot to navigate a maze.
What Else Can You Do With The Arduino Robot?
There is a Robot Expansion Kit coming soon that includes an IR receiving sensor, an ultrasound sensor and various TinkerKit modules such as LDR sensors, bright white LED, red LED, green LED, connecting cables and an IR remote control. The control and motor boards both have through-hole prototyping space conveniently located near the TinkerKit sensor headers, so you can add customized circuits and sensors.
As with every Arduino product made, the hardware and software are all open source and there are forums and discussions dedicated to adding or enhancing functionality and helping when you're in a pinch. The Arduino Robot is sure to provide endless hours of education and fun.
Ryan Winters is a Product Manager at Jameco Electronics and a Bay Area, California native. He is mostly self-taught and his hobbies include working on cars and computers, fiddling with electronic gadgets and experimenting with robotics.