Converting a Roomba into a Mars rover

When we first heard of [Dino]’s all-terrain Roomba, we hoped the ‘stair-climbing Roomba’ problem had finally been solved, but the final build turned out much cooler.

A year ago, [Dino] built a small robot based on a rocker-bogie suspension. This suspension system has been used on every Mars rover, including the huge Mars Science Labratory scheduled to land on Mars next year. [Dino] beefed up the suspension from the previous version and changed the wheels and center of gravity. Now, the little Roomba rover seems quite capable of climbing over objects as tall as itself.

The control of the rover is similar to other Roomba hacks we’ve seen – just tapping a few transistors. [Dino] is using a Seeduino and an ultrasonic sensor to avoid collisions. [Dino] says that he’s thinking about pivoting each wheel independently to get around the skid-steering, but maybe an omnidirectional wheel would be better suited.

Check out the video after the break for a demo of the Roomba rover traversing the treacherous boulder strewn terrain in [Dino]’s garage.

10 thoughts on “Converting a Roomba into a Mars rover

  1. I love Irobot products. My senior design project was built off a gutted Create. They make for some nice platforms.

    I rememeber seeing the first version of Dino’s mod (or one like it) a while ago. Good job!

  2. Just to clarify, you actually have just a “Rocker” suspension, not a “Rocker-Bogie”. A rocker joint is one that has a differential. Move one side of the rocker and the other side moves the opposite amount. A bogie is a passive pivot.

    The Mars rovers (pathfinder, MER, and now MSL) have the same design of a rocker to start with but then adds a bogie in the back. The front leg of the rocker has one wheel and the back leg of the rocker has a bogie attached with two wheels, free to pivot front to back. That’s how you get the six wheels compared to your 4. Only 4 of the 6 wheels will rotate for steering (the two rocker wheels and the back two bogie wheels). There is a fundamental difference between driving forward and backward with this design. If a rock flips the bogie it can get stuck in something called bogie-lock.

    If a full rocker-bogie is too complicated, but you want more wheels for more traction, you should look at pictures of the European ExoMars rover. It uses a bogie-bogie-bogie setup with six wheels. The back-left and back-right wheels are each on a bogie pivoting front to back (like your rover but without the differential bar) and then a third bogie for the front two wheels pivoting left-right.

  3. “Check out the video after the break for a demo of the Roomba rover traversing the treacherous boulder strewn terrain in [Dino]‘s garage.”

    I think you mean:

    Check out the next video after the break for a demo of the Roomba rover doing absolutely nothing because the batteries are completely useless and no longer hold any charge.

  4. Omniwheels / mechanum wheels (as suggested in the blurb) wouldn’t be any good for vehicles planning to traverse uneven terrain. They only really work on smooth flat surfaces like concrete or linoleum etc.
    Plus they would clog up with dirt too easily.

    If they did work then NASA would be using them on their Mars rovers.

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