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Beginner-level Arduino projects, while they can be educational, are often not all that interesting. Creating a traffic light is good for learning programming, but once you’ve done it, its usefulness is over. An Arduino-powered Pomodoro timer is great, but not all that exciting. Want to tackle something more fun? Try building a robot controlled by an Arduino: here are eight affordable options.
Pololu Zumo Robot Kit ($100 + Arduino)
This kit comes with everything you need to create a programmable robot—you just need to add the Arduino! This is a tracked robot platform, making it good for rolling over less-than-perfectly-smooth surfaces, and it also packs six infrared sensors to keep it from running into things. Combine that with the bulldozer blade, motors, a buzzer, and a couple more sensors to help keep the robot on track, and you have a great beginner Arduino project.
Pololu 3pi Robot Kit ($100)
The 3pi robot comes with its own microcontroller. And while it’s not technically an Arduino controller, the ATmega328 at the heart of the device is compatible with the Arduino development platform, so you can practice your Arduino programming with this kit. It also includes an LCD screen, so your robot can display messages! With LEDs, a buzzer, reflectance sensors, and two independent motors, this is a great robot for both beginner and intermediate robotics enthusiasts.
MeArm Pocket-sized Robotic Arm ($50 + Arduino)
Not all robots are tiny wheeled menaces—there are plenty of other options! This robotic arm comes with a full acrylic frame and four servos; you’ll just need a small screwdriver to put it together and an Arduino to control it. You may need to do some experimenting and searching online to figure out how to best program it, but you can check out Lifehacker’s article on building a robotic arm to see how to get started.
Although the description for this robot car on AliExpress is written in Russian, it still gets good reviews for being a fun, easy-to-work-with, and versatile little robot. The kit includes the car chassis, a sonar sensor for preventing crashes, a remote to control the car, and an Arduino board–making it a great value for beginners to microcontroller programming.
ArdBot ($19 + Arduino)
The ArdBot is a basic rolling robot that you can get up and running in no time, and the chassis is highly expandable, so you’ll have a platform from which you can build and learn a lot more. The original ArdBot was detailed in Servo magazine, but you can find everything you need in this article from Robotoid. It also includes all of the part numbers of the components that you’ll need to get your first robot moving.
oddWires Obstacle-Avoiding Robot ($80) [No Longer Available]
This kit comes with an Arduino and a motor shield, so you can get started with this simple two-wheeled robot and then move on to more complicated and involved projects. The ultrasonic distance measuring module will keep the robot from running into anything, and the chassis allows for easy mounting of other sensors and actuators. oddWires designed this kit to involved a minimum amount of soldering and interconnection, so it’s a great kit for beginners. (And if you already have an Arduino, you can get the same kit with the motor shield, but no microcontroller, for $54.)
Cherokey 4WD Basic Robot ($110)
One of the more expensive options out there for a basic robot kit, the four-wheeled Cherokey does provides some very cool features that you won’t find on other beginner Arduino robots—most notably, the fact that you can control this little robot from your iPhone. Just download the GoBLE app and you should be ready to go. Technically speaking, the brains of this Cherokey comes from a Romeo development board, but it’s Arduino compatible so you won’t know the difference. The kit comes with an ultrasonic sensor and mounting bracket, but there’s plenty of room for you to add more sensors, or even a robotic arm.
If the idea of using a kit to build something doesn’t appeal to you, there’s a robot that will be great for your true DIY spirit: meet James. This tutorial from Instructables will show you how to take a bunch of parts that you can get from an Arduino starter kit or buy individually, and put them on a frame that you cut yourself. You’ll need a bandsaw or another power tool to cut the acrylic, but if you’re willing to do that, you shouldn’t have any problem with the rest of the instructions.
Robotics in the Palm of Your Hand
With burgeoning interest in robotics, there are a lot of great options for building little Arduino-powered robots. And once you’ve built one, you can expand from there with more sensors, servos, devices, or more complicated code. The possibilities are endless.
Have you built an Arduino robot? What did you think? Would you recommend the kit that you used? Share your experiences below!