It can be hard to know where to start if you’re interested in learning about robotics. You want something simple enough to not be overwhelming, but with enough versatility and capability to provide the depth for real learning. That’s particularly true if you want to learn about more complex kinds of designs, such as self-balancing robots. That’s why Mike Moore created Bobble-Bot, which is a self-balancing robot designed specifically to help teach RTLinux and ROS running on a Raspberry Pi.
Bobble-Bot looks a bit cobbled-together and doesn’t have the polished appearance of many other robots, but that’s part of its charm. There aren’t any mechanical parts or electronic components present that don’t need to be there. That keeps the costs low, reduces complexity, and lets you focus on what is important: control. In this case, a lot of that control is focused on the self-balancing capability. Keeping the robot upright requires a constant loop of reading sensors and responding quickly to their feedback.
While there are many ways you can control a robot, Bubble-Bot is intended to be used with Robot Operating System (ROS) running on top of Real Time Linux (RTLinux) on a Raspberry Pi single-board computer (SBC). The mechanical parts can be 3D-printed, and all of the electronic components are readily-available online. Those include brushless DC motors, a Chupacabra BLDC motor driver, and a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. There is a Bobble-Sim available for experimentation, and many opportunities for customization and future development. If you’re looking for a way to learn about self-balancing robots, this is an affordable way to get started.