designs — wheeled, legged, and tracked
— are all well represented in the available
kits. Robots with wheels are among the
least expensive, because the mechanics
of attaching a wheel to a motor is fairly
simple. Most robot kits are the familiar
two-wheel design, where a third
(sometimes fourth) wheel or mechanical
skid serve for balance. For the smaller
and lighter desktop robot class (about
10 inches or under), two drive wheels
are directly connected to their motors,
which are attached to the robot chassis
using hardware or other fastener system.
The robot is steered by controlling the
speed and direction of each wheel.
Tank treads are also a popular robot
locomotion choice. To save cost, most
kits use all-rubber treads (often from the
Tamiya Track & Wheel Set) available from
hobby stores. The set includes multiple
rubber segments that can be connected
together to make different lengths of
tread, as well as an assortment of plastic
roller and drive sprocket parts.
More advanced (and expensive)
treaded kits use specially made metal or
plastic parts to form the tracks. Two examples are the track kits from Lynxmotion
and Vex Robotics. Both use interlocking
plastic pieces, allowing you to construct a
track of exactly the length you want.
Legged robots are among the most
challenging and rewarding designs, and
they tend to also be the most expensive
as kits. Kits may be made of plastic,
metal, or wood, such as the Talrik line
from Mr. Robot (also available in ABS
plastic). Nearly all of the metal kits used
stamped parts, where the metal is cut
out and bent using specialty tools. This
saves the cost of custom-machining
metal parts. A notable exception to this
rule is the Penguin line of two-legged
walking robots from Parallax.
Finding Just the Right Kit
No one robot kit is ideal for
everyone. Picking the perfect kit involves
deciding what you want your robot to
do, and balancing that with your experience level and budget. Many of the kits
available from the sources below are in
the $50 to $250 range, but there are others that cost upwards of $3,000 or more.
The difference is largely the capability of
the robot and the parts that are included.
Obviously, you will pay more for a kit that
is all-inclusive and is bundled with a
microcontroller, sensors, and other parts.
Let others guide you in picking a
kit that’s perfect for you. If you’re at
school, ask friends or your teacher for
recommendations. On the Internet,
check out newsgroups and forums,
and ask for opinions. If you’re lucky
enough to have a robot user’s group
near you, attend a meeting and seek
the expert advice of other members.
Be sure to be honest about your skill
level and budget; you don’t want to be
talked into getting a kit that’s over your
head or your pocket book!
Acroname carries numerous kits
and parts. Also provides a wide selection of sensors and microcontrollers.
Selection of robots and robotic
construction products, including
microcontroller boards designed with
amateur robots in mind.
Though mainly a designer and
builder of automation systems, Arrick
Robotics also sells a small robot
platform, the ARobot. The platform
includes a microcontroller board based
on the BASIC Stamp from Parallax.
Offers different versions of
the BOL-BOT kit plus accompanying
Heavy-duty designs for those into
competition (battle) robotics.
My own company, Budget Robotics
sells a narrow range of products, with
an emphasis on structural elements,
such as robot bodies and frames.
US-based reseller of the Bioloid
kits, as well as their own custom-made
metal robot kits. Extensive site with
plenty of how-to, programming, and
background information on using their
custom designed robotic kits.
Offers various kits for "future
engineers" including a robot car, frog,
ladybug, solar racer, and many more.
Makers of the ROBONOVA-1. Also
offer controllers, servos, sensors, and
Full assortment of controllers,
sensors, and other components for
robotics, as well as bases, starter kits,
and construction components.
Canadian Hobby electronics
retailer that manufactures unique Sharp
distance sensors and resells Parallax, PIC,
Atmel, and PICAxe products.
Product line includes an assortment of unusual robotic bases, such as
a golf swing robot, a pan mechanism,
six-legged walking robot made of clear
plastic, and small gripper.
Reseller of robot wares, plus
custom kits of their own creation,
including the OctoBot Survivor and
Muscle Wire (shape memory alloy)
US distributor of Joinmax kits;
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