The Arduino is one of the most diverse robotics platforms. It truly opens the world of modern electronics to the students by allowing them to interface with all sorts of relevant, modern technology. We have seen this unfold in our latest project with the Arduino, the RC car hacking project.
For this project, we decided a good candidate to start with would be the New Bright RC ‘Interceptor’, a larger scale car that fit a standard-sized Arduino (in this case, an UNO) and a breadboard with lots of room to spare. This surplus of space opens up tons of options for adding sensors in the future. Plus, by tapping into the car’s standard battery we eliminated the need to add a second one. Since we needed to be able to control the RC car’s DC motors with the Arduino, we decided to use the VEX Motor Controller 29 to convert the PWM signals into corresponding voltage levels. This solution was cheap, easy, and effective; a true engineering triple play.
Once the Arduino was implanted into the RC car, it was time to tell the newborn robot to do something. Of course, we did this using our favorite programming software, ROBOTC for Arduino (more on this later).
It is important to realize that while most robots have a tank style drive system, the RC cars have the same steering system as that found in real-sized cars (Ackermann Steering). This unfortunately eliminates the possibility of making point turns, but it does open the doors to other interesting opportunities such as parallel parking (we plan on showcasing this in a later update).
Besides being incredibly awesome, this project also helps to expand upon the superb flexibility of the Arduino and VEX systems; although not specifically designed for one another, they can easily be used together with little or no modification to either system.
We could never allow you, the reader, to miss out on the hacking. If you are interested in this or any of our other current projects, we encourage you to take a look at the tutorials on our wiki. At the moment they are works-in-progress, but we are well on the way of having step-by-step guides for hacking a variety of vehicles, with different scales and sizes, and different methods of operation. We ultimately want the tutorials to act as guides to hack any RC vehicle, even if we do not cover it specifically.