The miniscule size of this self-balancing robot makes it a cool project. It actually uses the motor and wheels from a small toy car. But when you look into how the balancing act is performed it gets way more interesting. The larger versions of this trick pretty much all use Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) which are usually made up of an accelerometer and a gyroscopic sensor. This has neither.
The black PCB seen to the right of the robot is an IR reflectance sensor. It shines an IR led at the floor and picks up what reflects back. [Sean] added this hack because the gyro sensor he ordered hasn’t arrived yet. The board has a trimpot which is used to adjust the sensitivity. You have to tweak it until it stands on its own. See for yourself after the break.
Self balancing robot builds are a great way to teach yourself about Proportional-Integral-Derivate (PID) algorithms used in a lot of these projects.