How Not To Build A Robotic Lawnmower


[shadeydave] wanted to build his own Lawnbot, but he had no idea where to start. He purchased some DIY plans online which looked like they would get the job done, but then he strayed from the path in a big way and spent gobs of money in the process.

In his Instructable writeup, he details each misstep he made, explaining why his choices were bad as well as how much each mistake cost him. It sounds like pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong, from spending money on unnecessary microcontrollers to choosing the wrong wheels. Our favorite part is where he mentions that he couldn’t figure out how to create a “kill switch” for the Lawnbot in the event that his transmitter loses contact with the speedy whirling death machine.

[shadeydave] is well aware of how poorly his build went, and primarily wrote it up as a cautionary tale to others out there who might decide to take on a similar project. He says that the Lawnbot works for the most part, but with his newfound wisdom he will be revising the bot, having learned from his mistakes.

We actually like to see this kind of writeup as they can be quite beneficial to someone trying to put together a similar project. So if you have some major flubs under your belt, don’t be shy about digging them out and letting us know. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Continue reading to see a quick video tour of [shadeydave’s] mostly working Lawnbot.


26 thoughts on “How Not To Build A Robotic Lawnmower

  1. My favorite thing about this is that he admits his mistakes, and learns from them.
    My second favorite is that he shares his mistakes.

    That has all of the makings of a good scientist.

  2. “If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. … I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety percent of his labor.”
    – Nikola Tesla, quoted in The New York Times (19 Oct 1931)

  3. agreed with the above, it takes alot to admit your mistakes. Ive worked with those HF wheels before, what worked well for me was welding the right size holesaw (also HF) onto the hub. Just make sure you wire brush all the zinc off as welding on it produces nasty gasses

  4. Despite any flaws, the video shows it definitely works. I’d take some off-camber wheels any day so long as I could mow my lawn from the comfort of a lawn chair with a beer by my side. Nice work and great attitude about a project that looks like it took a lot of time and aggravation.

  5. You know projects are unlikely to wind up NASA quality when they involve spinning blades, a lack of technical background and start with “[shadeydave] wanted to build his own Lawnbot, but he had no idea where to start.

    Still – thanks for the writeup!

  6. This guy made me laugh heaps. I look forward to more from him.

    To be fair on his issues, I had thought to make one of these too. I think I would have gone down a few of the same paths he did.

    Some things feel so breathtakingly obvious until you go down that road and find out “oh my, this was a terrible idea.”.

  7. Wow, a Radio Control lawnmower?! This project was very bold and ambitious. However, very dangerous. I wouldn’t have touched that idea with a ten foot pole. But I give him a lot of credit for his efforts.

    1. If you find a radio control lawnmower scary, whatever you do, don’t Google 700 size remote control helicopters.

      Think flying remote control lawnmower with faster blades. They’re harder to dodge when they can go 80mph.

  8. Hi guys,

    I just found this page through my YouTube link tracker! Thanks for the words of support! It really means a lot.

    I’m starting a new build in the new year, where I’m making an animatronic co-host for my other youtube channel, if anyone is interested. ;) It’s turning out to be full of the same honest “what the heck am I doing?!” moments.

    Check out my YouTube channel @ shadeydave, and if you dig what I do, subscribe. It’s a bit of a mash up of stuff at the moment, but I’m narrowing the focus strictly to DIY. I should have a proper instructable put up by March of the complete co-host build.

  9. If you decide to start a project and your prototype does 80% of what you want it to, then you have a success. That’s why they call it a prototype. Personally, I would’ve equipped it with GPS, but awesome, awesome, awesome.

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