Robotics isn’t always immediately accessible. There are kits and tutorials, and a huge community built up around robotics, but it’s still an expensive hobby to get into. Many cheap robotics platforms can cost upwards of a hundred dollars, which can seem overwhelming when you’re young and just getting started. That’s why I started a series on Instructables dedicated to using cheap materials and an arts-and-crafts mentality to make robotics cheaper and more approachable for everybody!
This series is very important to me because it comes from my personal experience getting started with robotics. When I was in middle school, I was already excited about engineering and robotics and I was enthusiastic about learning, but I suffered from a severe case of the non-starters simply because I didn’t have the money to pay for these robotics kits. I started out by trying to hack together my own robots using the materials I had around the house, including a fair amount of salvaged scrap from old radios and such, but I never got far because I simply didn’t have the experience or engineering sense to overcome the problems I ran into.
This series aims to address that. I’m certain that I wasn’t the only kid out there trying to cobble together my own parts out of duct tape and cardboard, and I know for a fact that there are plenty of middle and high school teachers who could benefit from a cheaper alternative to expensive (and restrictive) robot kits. That’s why my series focuses on recycled materials that can be found around the home. I use cardboard instead of sheet metal, scissors instead of a milling machine, and cheap salvaged motors instead of expensive servos. Most importantly, I show you how to create robots that aren’t cobbled together monstrosities of duct tape and glue!
There are already three Instructables in this series, starting with a tutorial on cheap wheels.
I started here because, in my experience, wheels are the biggest stumbling block to new hobbyists trying to build their own from scratch. It can be surprisingly difficult to connect anything to the tiny motor shafts, and the high speeds and low torque of most stock or salvaged motors makes them terribly ineffective anyway. In this Instructable, I show how you can make three different wheels, each best suited for a different type of motor. I even show how you can make wheels for direct drive motors that are normally unusable without a gearbox!
My latest three Instructables are on building chassis for your robots out of cardboard.
These are three Instructables in which I show how you can use cardboard to create platforms for your robot. One of my big focuses with these projects is to build robots that aren’t just functional, but look clean and professional. I try to make them not only attractive, but also an indicator (in this case) of how easily a basic robot design can be modified for a specific purpose. A cleaner design can more easily have sensors and manipulators added to it. I want to drive home that a craft mentality can be applied to robotics, so that anybody can build them!
In the future I intend to expand this to encompass more than just robots with wheels. I want to show that with a little ingenuity, anything from robotic arms to a simple XY plotting machine can be made from cheap, everyday items. This has some great applications to kids learning robotics. Teachers can pick up tips to assemble classroom robotics kits on the cheap. Boy Scouts can build their own robots from scratch for under fifty dollars. Young kids looking for a weekend project can pick these things up and get them running in an evening.
I’m really excited for this project, and I want to get the word out and see where people can take it!