The first thing I wanted to make when I got my Raspberry Pi was a robot. Everybody loves robots. But, knowing next to nothing about motor control, I was a little scared of trying to build one. Something with wheels seemed like a step in the right direction, though.
Thankfully, a company called Dexter Industries produces a super-easy-to-put-together remote control robot car for Raspberry Pi called the GoPiGo:
We were looking into a more advanced project to teach at the Raspberry Pi workshops we’ve been hosting and I had been looking for an excuse to build a robot. I thought I’d share my experience with the GoPiGo from unboxing to remote controlling with you!
The GoPiGo came in the typical cardboard box I’m familiar with receiving most of my kits in.
Inside of some bubble wrap all of the pieces were ready to be used. That is, except for the acrylic parts (pieces of plastic covered in brown below) and one of the motors.
The brown paper on the acrylic pieces, which prevents scratches, can be left on, but then the car won’t look nearly as cool. That being said, peeling it off took a while. Like, a very long time. And it was pretty hard to get an edge on – there was a lot of nail scratching happening.
Right out of the box one of my motors had come un-soldered. It was very easy to fix (just needed to reheat the solder to reconnect), but I didn’t have access to a soldering iron when I was putting the set together. Having to wait to play with the robot was very trying indeed.
After fixing the motor, assembly went really quickly (maybe a little longer than the 20 minutes they advertise, but not by much). They have a great guide on putting everything together. Here is what the car looked like without the Pi or top attached:
Awesome Things About the GoPiGo
- Assembly is easy and gratifying
The pieces are well-made, fit together perfectly and all you need is a screw driver. It probably took me around 45 minutes to have everything put together, including acrylic paper peeling time. After I finished the final product, I was very happy with myself and the robot.
- It is both a final product and a stepping stone
Alone, the GoPiGo is an awesome project that lets you make your very own RC car. But the fact that it uses a Raspberry Pi and a special board means that it can become so much more. Examples on their website include an Office Cannon and an Ultrasonic Obstacle Avoider.
- Encoders and an easy way to read them are included
Attaching encoders is part of the assembly process and the GoPiGo software package has a ready-made script to read them. This makes it very easy to get distance traveled and speed. You can also use the encoders to debug your motors if your robot is, say, always veering left.
- The robot is cool
The whole design of the GoPiGo is just downright cool. The clear acrylic lets you see the Pi and motors and the front caster wheel is legit.
- It works!
The little guy really can go!
Mediocre Things About the GoPiGo
- The screws were loose and often fell out
No matter how tight I made the screws initially, they would find a way to wriggle free. I solved the problem with some Threadlocker.
- It takes 8AA (12V) or 6AA (9V) batteries for 1 hour of run time
I understand that powering motors takes a lot of juice, 8 batteries is just a lot. If you plan on using this guy to take over the world, be sure to get rechargeable batteries or you’ll be spending a fortune.
- It took a couple tries to get the motor orientation right
I followed their assembly tutorial exactly but still ended up with one wheel turning the wrong way. It’s an easy problem to fix, it would just be nice if their tutorial told you a little more than “the colors should be placed in an alternating pattern” since when I finally got mine oriented correctly they weren’t alternating.
- Ports on the Pi are hard to access
Due to the design, one of the USB ports is unusable. If you want to just power the Pi for updates/script-writing without removing the top plate and disconnecting the Pi and don’t want to drain your precious battery power, the microUSB port is very hard to access because of one of the spacers. The battery pack also makes taking out the SD card a bit of a hassle.
While the mediocre things are irking, the awesomeness of the GoPiGo robot car makes it well worth it. It works great, is easy to get up and running, and opens up a whole host of other project possibilities for a reasonable $89.95.