The beginning

The $50 Robot project came from the idea of making a small Arduino-based robot as cheaply as possible. I have built wheeled bots like this before, but they always seem to cost $200+ by the time I was done. Could I build one for $45? $40?

First prototype for the really cheap robot idea
First prototype for the really cheap robot idea

I ordered a few parts off of eBay and (after a long wait for delivery from China) set to work. The first attempt was ugly, clumsy, and underpowered. But it was pointing the right direction. Before even programming it I worked out some improvements for the next round.

About this time it occurred to me that this might make a good project to share for others to learn basic maker skills such as fabrication, soldering, electronics, and Arduino programming. There are certainly other small robots of this type on the market but they are generally pre-fabricated and soldered, considerably more expensive, or both. Their potential for developing a range of maker skills is very limited. Thus the really cheap robot idea lead to the Robot50 program and the $50 Robot project as the first effort within it. The name came from a more realistic assessment of what it would cost to build.

Prototype 2 established the major design elements of the $50 Robot. The details will be provided elsewhere on this site. It uses commonly available cheap parts that can be ordered from more than one supplier (with a couple exceptions).

The second prototype, establishing the main elements of the $50 Robot
The second prototype, establishing the main elements of the $50 Robot.

It is holding up well in testing and the chassis can be fabricated by hand from plywood, cut on a CNC machine, or 3D printed. Minor tweaks are currently being made to this version before plans and design files are released.

The program

The goal of the Robot50 program is to provide resources to makers in the form of inexpensive and extendable projects that are accessible to the relative novice.  The projects will build skills to assist makers in independently pursuing new projects. A concept brief can be found here (pdf file).

The first project of Robot50 is Bootstrap.