Earlier we had posted a blog series on robotics club toolkit. These blogs talked about the electronics components, open source software needed to have the bare bone tools needed to start a robotics club. In this blog, we will see the common things to look for while buying a robotics kit online. A robotic kit could be a good choice as it offers a low-cost option to have all stuff you need in one 'box' than buying all separately. This is also a convenient option as you don't have to worry about buying from multiple sources.
1. Check the LEDs and wires offered with the kit:
This may sound strange but LED's are the basic testing tools while starting with new sensors or an approach. This is something as 'hello world' when it comes to learning a programming language.
A decent kit should have some LED's offered in different colours. LED's blow off quickly due to use or incorrect electronics
A robotic kit could be a good choice as it offers a low-cost option to have all stuff you need in one 'box' than buying all separately. This is also a convenient option as you don't have to worry about buying from multiple sources
application like bad soldering or too high current. So have a bunch of LED's is good. When it comes to wires look out that it provides the right insulation and jacketing like DuPoint cables. These comes in various lengths and ensure you have both the male and female variants available.
2. Check the boards offered before you choose the lowest priced kit:
Some kit comes with a board like Arduino Uno or Raspberry Pi while others do not come with one. So before doing a price comparison check if the kits you are comparing comes with a board or without the board. Just going with the cheaper kit may not be the right deal.
3. Resistors and capacitors:
These come in very handy as can avoid buying extra chips. Let us take an example. If you have a combination of resistors you can make a voltage divider yourself and don't need to buy a voltage divider board. Similarly, capacitors are used in motors for better performance.
If you have a combination of resistors you can make a voltage divider yourself and don't need to buy a voltage divider board. Similarly, capacitors are used in motors for better performance
4. Motors and frame/chassis:
Most kit would come with 2 or 4 DC motors which are used for motion. Please bear in mind that most kits assume that you are making a wheeled robot and it is a good assumption since almost all hobby robotics start with a wheeled robot. These are also called as BO motors. We suggest to check for the motors as part of the kit for a simple reason - it comes with the board, clamp and screws which come handy when you start with the base. Buying these parts individually is often a big headache so avoid it and check if it comes with motors and frame. The frames are often made of acrylic the same material used in carrom board coins and some furniture. These are quite sturdy and does the job. As you mature in robotics you would move to metal frame chassis but that is at a later stage.
Please ensure the kit comes with screws and nuts especially compatible with the chassis. Sourcing for various screws is not so easy and often postage costs make this no sense to buy individually. Do not ignore screws as screws indeed can cause a big headache if there is no fit to the chassis. It is so common to buy the wrong screw and go crazy. Avoid screw jargon of checking if a S3 or S4 screw or a M2.5, M2.6 bolt. Simple use the ones supplied in the kit.
This is optional. In fact, you get kits just for sensors as well. We do not recommend you to buy a bunch of sensors in one go for the reason that you can easily start with 1-2 sensors and buy what you need. There is a high probability that your first robot will not need a bunch of 10 different types of sensors. But still, if you have sensors built in the kit you would be looking for these entry level sensors as Line follower sensor, ultrasonic sensor, temperature sensor, moisture sensor and IR sensor/remote.
7. Motor driver:
Motor driver provides direction and speed to the motors using PWM as motors themselves don't have the capacity to control these. We think having a motor driver board in the kit can save some money but if this is missing in the kit then it is not a major problem especially if you are using Arduino. The reason being that with Arduino it is very used to use the header shield that sits on top of Arduino and is way easier and compact to use, code and deploy than a standalone motor driver.
8. Installation CD:
This is interesting. This actually doesn't matter as robotics these days on the hobby level is all open source and tonnes of materials available on the web to get started. So check if the CD really adds value here? It would depend on what the CD provides? All installations needed for Raspberry pi can be easily downloaded from the site as well and Arduino comes with boot-loader burnt so installation CD is not mandatory.
9. Battery box and switch:
Check for this small part as most of us ignore this. The battery is the Juice for any robot and buying one separately can cost you more in postage charges. So check if the kit offers a battery box and preferably with a switch. Most common would use a 4xAA battery box. Please note that a 9V battery is not recommended so having a 9V PP3 clip wire is no use as 9V batteries run out soon of current. Nothing beats the good old alkaline 1.5v. To know more about batteries read this blog of MieRobot.com on various battery types.
Please note that a 9V battery is not recommended so having a 9V PP3 clip wire is no use as 9V batteries run out soon of current
Please check if the kit provides a basic breadboard. This is needed not only to prototype but use the jumper wires in the robot. A small breadboard provides the common voltage rail and the ground rail which comes very handy to draw current or add electronics externally. Image : Wikipedia
We hope that this blog helps you choose your first basic robotics kit. This blog is applicable for both college and school level robotics.
Bread board image Source and attribution : By oomlout (BREB-01 (Breadboard)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Raspberry Pi image source and attribution : By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Arduino and bread board : By Dolicom (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Jumper wires : By oomlout (A few Jumper Wires) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons