Arduino Stepper Line Follower

Now we have perfected a mounting technique that works for both stepper and yellow motor bot’s, we can release the first line follower to our testers to try out.

See the details in The Vault here.

Creating kits

kitting_trayPart of the challenges of bring multiple parts together is making it easy for all the parts to be put in to one package and minimising the chances of anything getting missed out.

Because, long-term, we are expecting there to be many different schools and individuals providing ChickBot kits, we need to find a solution that is low-cost and available to all.

So here is the first version which is a couple of pieces of paper printed out and taped to a tray.

The reason batteries are only available for the UK is due to international posting restrictions. They are only provided in the UK retail kit.

If you are wondering why the smaller items are out of position, it’s because our quality control Kit-Kat, aka Pretty, came along to help:


Kill Switch String

chickbot_kill_switch_stringWe’ve found some stiff nylon cord that makes for a great addition for the kit.

It will help prevent jumper loss (the tiny on-off clip that we use).

And because it will stand up on its own, will stick up above the your ChickBot, allowing you to grab it to pull the jumper off and turn off your ChickBot in an ’emergency’.

All kits will include two pieces of cord.

Christmas 2015 beta test

Seasons greetings to one and all.

Just before the holidays started the first batch of PCB’s arrived so we’ve sent out a few ChickBots to friends and families to join in the fun we are having here.

We are well on the road to being able to make ChickBots at our target price. Single kits will cost a bit more but come with everything you need right out of the packet, apart from batteries for international orders. We have some manufacturing issues to debug for the bulk kits for schools but that should be resolved by the end of January.

The hard work now is to get the documentation written and online so that ChickBot owners can get started with their inventions. We are aiming to get a new tutorial written every other day from now until the end of January (or our fingers fall off!).

Raspberry Pi Zero

We are hugely excited about the launch of the Raspberry Pi Zero – the small low cost version that was almost made just for ChickBot!

Pi Zero

Because our target for ChickBot was £10/$15 in bulk, we have been concentrating on the Arduino Nano as the first controller.

With the RPi Zero, whilst we won’t be able to hit the £10/$15 mark as a base kit, we consider a controller that can ‘just add networking’ and has HDMI output has huge potential for ChickBot owners and the extra couple of ££/$$’s is well worth it. So we’ll be putting our Raspberry Pi efforts in to creating a controller PCB for the RPi Zero. The first iteration is unlikely to include a USB hub on board, but we can facilitate the use of a WiFi dongle so that you can program your ChickBot from another computer or send it commands remotely.

Here’s a side by side comparison of a Pi Zero and an Arduino Nano.

Pi Zero v Arduino Nano

As you can see, we aren’t going to have any problems using a similar sized chassis for the Pi Zero!

First pass at a kit and a beta build

Here’s what the kit looks like:

ChickBot kit v1

Resulting in:

ChickBot with infrared sensors ChickBot side view

These pictures have the infrared proximity sensors in them – used for line following and avoiding obstacles. The sensors aren’t included in the base kit – they take too long to solder so they cost a little too much to include pre-built – but the parts are pretty cheap ~ 50p / 33c!

Chassis template

After a bit of a tidy up in the workshop, we have a chassis template that supports all three motor types:

ChickBot chassis

I’ll write up the plans later, but for now, red dots are the stepper mounts, the yellow dot plus the red dot to the right is for the motor & gearbox and the green dots are for the turbo motors. Blue dots to allow wire access!

Controller board v1 PCBs are here

Here’s what goes on the board:

ChickBot parts for controller

And here’s what a finished one looks like:

ChickBot assembled controller

These PCB’s are overnighters so don’t have a full solder resist and silkscreen – but allow us to build a few boards to make sure we are heading in the right direction! At £7 a pop, these are pretty precious items!

Controller board prototype

Laying out PCB’s is a dark art – like doing a Rubik’s cube – but after a few false starts I’ve got a compact design going that covers both stepper and standard motors. More details to follow but here’s a picture and a short video that unveils a little extra surprise!


ChickBot prototype controller board

Yup, there’s a little buzzer hidden under the Arduino!

Plywood chassis, speedy motors and new back caster

Some prototyping has been going on. Trying out the finish of the wooden chassis on 3mm ply Looking at how to mount the small gear boxed motors – these ones are more pricey so are definitely an upgrade – but have the potential to have your ChickBot going like a velociraptor. And replacing the overly expensive swivel / ball caster options with a simple half a ping-pong ball – I’ve cracked a simple way to get them to stick!

ChickBot wood chassis - faster motors - low cost caster