This project was inspired by a design competition sponsored through the African Robotics Network (AFRON). The competition goal was to design a robot that could be built for as close to 10 dollars as possible. Robotics is a passion of mine (Mike’s). Like many others, I was introduced to robotics through the Lego Mindstorms kit and, while I still am a big fan of Mindstorms, I can see how the relatively high price of roughly 300 dollars per kit would prohibit it from being used in many educational settings. We are interested in ways to help younger students experience robotics, and the competition provided us with a great motivation to see how inexpensively we could create a simple robot.
There are many skills that students could learn through this kit. Assembling the kit itself will provide students with a great opportunity to learn about engineering design, electronics, and computer programming. We would encourage anyone who wants to build a similar robot to experiment and improve the design. The mechanicals of this kit in particular can be fabricated so easily that every student could create their own design. It is inevitable that some of the parts of this robot, such as the mechanicals and the controller board, could be mass-produced to reduce their price; however we believe it would also reduce student’s opportunities to be creative in the design process and to take pride in their final device.
We also think it is important to emphasize that while we created a mobile robot for this site, a very similar system could be used to produce a variety of robotic inventions. For example, with a few relatively low cost hobby servos students could make a robotic arm. Students could also try to make useful devices, such as a board that turns on a set of lights whenever someone enters a room. The possibilities are vast, and students should be encouraged to explore their options.
We’re pretty happy with the way this design worked out, but we still consider this a prototype, and there will likely be improvements in ease of use and reliability that need to be made before this could be used in a classroom. Also, while every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this site and in the documents provided as well as the overall fidelity of this design, the responsibility ultimately lies with the end user to ensure that any use of the information provided is safe and meets their needs. Having said that, we’ll continue working on updates and I’m hoping others out there with a passion for the educational possibilities of low-cost robotics will take the ideas I have here and continue to refine and improve them.
We hope that this site helps you develop your own low cost robots and discover how rewarding learning about robotics can be. Please let us know if this site helped you design your own educational robot or if you have any questions.
Mike and Gabrielle Robinson