Designing Your Own Custom ESP32 Powered Adventure Robot!

As many of you guys know, we had an absolute blast updating and launching our brand new Rover Robotics Kit. The entire process of designing a custom robot can be a little intimidating, but it can also be so much fun! In this tutorial, we'll go through the process that we here at ACBR go through when we design one of our robots! You can always pick up one of our bots in our shop, but this guide is for those who may be interested in customizing the Rover, and making one of their own!

The Rover Robotics Kit can be purchased here!

As always we have a video version of this post that can be found on our YouTube Channel, as well as linked below!

Step One: Picking your Microcontroller!

This first step is crucial! These days there are so many awesome options out there, at the end of the day, you really can't go wrong! Back in the day, your go-to might be an Arduino based board, but these days there are so many great options! For the Rover, we decided to use one of our absolute favorites, the ESP32!

The ESP32:

-Built-in Wi-Fi

-Built-in Bluetooth

-ESP-NOW Communication

-16 PWM Channels

-Tons of GPIO pins for things like i2C, and SPI devices

There were a lot of reasons why we went with the ESP32, it has so many awesome features perfect for building robots!

Step Two: Designing your PCB (Printed Circuit Board)

The next step in designing your own custom adventure robot is the PCB! There are tons of great examples of PCB Design software, but one of our favorites these days is EasyEDA! It's cloud-based, free, and feature-rich! Whenever you set out to design a new circuit board, your first step is the schematic. Before you start on the schematic, you've got to decide what you'd like to include in your robot! We wanted to make sure that our new Rover had:

-ESP32 plus breakout headers

-DRV8871 Motor Drivers

-XL4015 Buck Converter

-2 18650 batteries

-Integrated WS2812b (neopixels)

-Integrated Speaker/Buzzer

Once you know what components you need, the next step is building your schematic! We have our schematic here below, but if you'd like to download the schematic and board file and import that directly into EasyEDA, that can be downloaded here

Once you have your schematic figured out, it's time to design the board! We won't go through the entire process here, but if you'd like to download the Gerber file for our Rover, it can be downloaded here!

Step 3: Designing the Chassis!

These days, there are tons of ways to build robot chassis, they can be laser-cut out of acrylic, 3D printed, even cut on a CNC router. Our go-to these days has been using laser-cut aluminum!

Whatever manufacturing process you choose, you'll need a CAD program to design your parts! For this project, we decided to use OnShape! It's browser-based, free, and has just about everything you need! Making your own custom chassis in a CAD program can be as easy as using the "Line" tool to outline your shape, exporting it as a .DXF file, and sending it over to a laser cutter! We've linked the .DXF files for our chassis here. Keep in mind, your can also import these .DXF files into your own favorite CAD program to customize our design and make it your own!

Step 4: Programming your robot and having fun!

Once you have your circuit board and your chassis designed and fabricated, all that's left is to start programming your robot and having fun! If you're looking for a ton of fun sample code that's compatible with this hardware, you may be interested in downloading our Rover eBook! This is the same book that comes with the Rover Robotics kit when purchased from our shop! It can be downloaded here.

Whether you purchase a robot from us or build your own custom Rover, we hope you have a blast! We here at ACBR are all about bringing the exciting world of robotics to people all over the world, so if you enjoyed this tutorial give us a follow on Instagram, a subscribe on YouTube, or just drop us a line via email! Happy hacking!

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