Student Rover Explores The Backyard In Tribute

Three students were a little sad when NASA’s Opportunity rover went silent after 15 years on the Martian surface. So they decided to build their own rover inspired by Opportunity to roam their backyards using an off-the-shelf robot chassis, a Raspberry Pi, and the usual list of parts like motors, H-bridges, and batteries.

Like the real rover, the vehicle uses a rocker-bogie system, although it is a little less complex than the version NASA sent blasting off towards the Red Planet. The plucky vehicle comes complete with miniature solar panels to recharge its onboard battery, courtesy of some dollar-store garden lights. A pair of videos after the break show how the rover is controlled, as well as the view sent back from its onboard camera.

The rover ran a simulated Mars mission as part of a school project where it had to find an object and transmit an image of it back to home base, and by the looks of it, is was a rousing success. But the young explorers aren’t resting on their laurels, and are already working on a second version of their exploration vehicle that can operate in inclement weather and includes some new tools such as a robotic arm and infrared illumination for low-light imaging.

We’ve seen plenty of Mars rover clones in the past, but there’s always room for more. Of course, if you’re looking for something a bit easier to start with, you can always go the LEGO route.

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The Open Source Mars Rover, One Year Later

As the name implies, here at Hackaday we strive to bring you interesting projects every single day. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a project only gets one day to grace these storied pages. Quite the opposite, in fact. We’re always happy to revisit a project and find out how far it’s evolved since we last crossed paths with it, especially when the creators themselves reach out to give us an update.

Which is exactly what happened when [Jakob Krantz] recently wrote in to get us up to speed on this incredible open source rover project. We first saw this 3D printed Curiosity inspired robot a little less than a year ago, and at that point it was essentially just a big box with the distinctive NASA rocker-bogie suspension bolted on. Now it not only looks a lot closer to the Martian rovers that inspired it, but it’s also learned a number of new tricks that really take this project to the next level.

The articulated head and grabber arm don’t just help sell the Curiosity look, they’re actually functional. [Jakob] notes that he doesn’t have kinematics integrated yet, so moving the arm around is more for show than practical application, but in the future it should be able to reach out and grab objects. With the new cameras in the head, he’ll even be able to get a first person view of what he’s picking up.

Last year [Jakob] was using a standard RC transmitter to drive the rover around, but he’s since put together a custom controller that’s truly a thing of beauty. It uses an ESP32 and LoRa module to communicate with matching hardware inside the rover, as well as a smartphone clipped onto the top that’s displaying telemetry and video over WiFi. The controller is actually its own separate project, so even if you aren’t in the market for a scaled down Mars rover, its controller could come in handy for your next robotics project.

Presumably the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG) on the back of the rover is just pretend….but with this guy, we’re not so sure. Give him another year, and who knows.

3D Printed Rover Enjoys Long Walks On The Beach

More than a few hackers have put in the considerable time and effort required to build a rover inspired by NASA’s robotic Martian explorers, but unfortunately even the most well funded home tinkerer can’t afford the ticket to send their creation offworld. So most of these builds don’t journey through anything more exciting than a backyard sandbox. Not that we can blame their creators, we think a homebrew rover will look just as cool in your living room as it would traipsing through a rock quarry.

But the DIY rover status quo clearly wasn’t sufficient for [Jakob Krantz], who decided the best way to test his new Curiosity-inspired rover was to let it frolic around on the beach for an afternoon. But judging by the video after the break, his beefy 3D printed bot proved to be more than up to the task; powering through wildly uneven terrain with little difficulty.

Beyond a few “real” bearings here and there, all of the key components for the rover are 3D printed. [Jakob] did borrow a couple existing designs, like a printable bearing he found on Thingiverse, but for the most part he’s been toiling away at the design in Fusion 360 and using images of the real Curiosity rover as his guide.

Right now, he’s controlling the rover with a standard 6 channel RC receiver. Four channels are mapped to the steering servos, and a fifth to the single electronic speed control that commands the six wheel motors. But he’s recently added an Arduino to the rover which will eventually be in charge of interpreting the RC commands. This will allow more complex maneuvers with fewer channels, such as the ability to rotate in place.

We’re proud to count our very own [Roger Cheng] among the rover wrangling hackers of the world. An entire community has sprung up around his six-wheeled Sawppy, and the knowledge gained during its design and construction could be applicable to any number of other projects.

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Hackaday Podcast Ep12: Nearly Perpetual Motion, Mars Rover Carries Kid, And Doc Brown’s Cat Feeder

Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys catch up on the past week in hackerdom. It seems as if we’re in a golden age of machine building as an incredible rocker-bogie rover is built to transport a child and mechanical simplicity automates the wet cat food dispensing process. We marvel at the ability to use G-code to decorate eggs (them being curvy in more than one direction and all). The we contemplate the ability to build and start a motor which will continue to run long after your own life ends. And perhaps it’s time to add more layers to your PCB design playbook.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (52.3 MB)

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Kid Rover Is Six Wheels Of Awesome

There are plenty of ways to go about learning to TIG weld. Most involve a series of practice parts making butt joints and welding together various sections of pipe. [Kris Temmerman] decided to go a little bit farther, however. The result is a kid rover that’s sure to be the envy of every neighbourhood child for a few zipcodes around.

The chassis is an all-aluminium affair, making TIG welding the perfect choice for the job. Of course, [Kris] wasn’t content to simply build a basic go-kart or buggy. This sweet ride is inspired by the rocker-bogie designs of NASA’s Mars rovers, giving it the ride height and flexibility to roam over serious obstacles. Naturally, there’s six-wheel drive and four-wheel steering to complete the dynamic package. It should also be noted that yellow wheels are a stunning design choice that we just don’t see enough of.

It’s a beautifully crafted vehicle, and a testament to [Kris]’s machining and design skills. We can’t wait to see it given a shakedown run on the muddy fields of Belgium. If you’re eager to start your own rocker-bogie build, NASA’s got the open source designs to get you started. Video after the break.

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Six Wheels (En)rolling: Mars Rovers Going To School

Few things build excitement like going to space. It captures the imagination of young and old alike. Teachers love to leverage the latest space news to raise interest in their students, and space agencies are happy to provide resources to help. The latest in a long line of educator resources released by NASA is an Open Source Rover designed at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

JPL is the birthplace of Mars rovers Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. They’ve been researching robotic explorers for decades, so it’s no surprise they have many rovers running around. The open source rover’s direct predecessor is ROV-E, whose construction process closely followed procedures for engineering space flight hardware. This gave a team of early career engineers experience in the process before they built equipment destined for space. In addition to learning various roles within a team, they also learned to work with JPL resources like submitting orders to the machine shop to make ROV-E parts.

Once completed, ROV-E became a fixture at JPL public events and occasionally visits nearby schools as part of educational outreach programs. And inevitably a teacher at the school would ask “The kids love ROV-E! Can we make our own rover?” Since most schools don’t have 5-axis CNC machines or autoclaves to cure carbon fiber composites, the answer used to be “No.”

Until now.

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Simple Step-Climbing Robot Climbs Like It’s On Mars

[Navin Khambhala] is a master at making simple what most would expect to be a complex build. Now he’s done it again with a remote controlled robot that can easily climb steps and role over rough terrain. The parts count is small and many of them are commonly available.

The suspension that makes it all possible is the rocker-bogie. It’s the same suspension we’ve all seen used by the various rovers ambling around on Mars. The whole frame is made of PVC pipes with some connecting metal bars, and each wheel has its own twelve-volt DC motor. Motor control is done simply with a module that combines the 2.4 GHz receiver with motor controllers. When you watch the video below, note where only one hole is drilled through the PVC for making connections instead of two holes. Where there’s only one hole, the two sections of PVC are free to rotate independently of each other. Turning the robot is done by rotating the wheels on one side in one direction and the wheels on the other side in the opposite direction. This is called a differential drive or tank drive, and we’ve highlighted it before for use in making hamster-drive type BB-8 droids.

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