Like most 5-year-olds, John Graves’ son loves playing with toy construction equipment. One toy in particular stood out: a 1:12 scale metal RC digger. There are lots of these on the market, and they’re usually surprisingly affordable. But, while the digger itself is fairly robust, the controller is pretty cheap and difficult to use.
So, Graves did what any good tech-savvy father would do, and set out to give the digger some serious upgrades. The first step was to replace the original motor control board with a Darkwater 640 (pronounced “six for zero” — get it?) motor controller Raspberry Pi shield. That supports up to six DC motors, which just so happens to be the number of motors in the digger.
The 640 was attached to a Raspberry Pi Zero W, which was in turn paired with a PlayStation 3 controller. That’s enough to provide full control of the movement, but Graves didn’t stop there. He then added a few LEDs for some cool visual effects, along with USB speakers for sound effects.
Finally, Graves put a Raspberry Pi Camera inside of the cab of the digger. The camera is connected to the Raspberry Pi, and provides a video stream that’s viewable on a tablet. It’s not suitable for FPV control of the digger, but provides a neat perspective. As you can see, Graves’ son was pretty thrilled with the results.