Put together your own remote-controlled Curiosity rover with the help of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a Raspberry Pi.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
To educate the curious about the use of rovers in space, the Pasadena-based NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) built a mini-rover, ROV-E, to tour classrooms, museums, and public engagement events.
And so engaged was the public by the rover and its ability to manoeuvre harsh terrain, rocks, and small children, that the JLP engineers have published a building plan that allows rover-enthused makers to build their own for around $2500 using off-the-shelf parts.
Curiosity for the curious
The JPL open-source rover is a scaled-down model of Curiosity, the car-sized rover currently on day 2187 of its mission to explore the surface of Mars.
And while the home-brew version of Curiosity may not be able to explore the Red Planet, project sponsor Tom Soderstrom believes it can offer plenty of opportunities to future STEM pioneers:
“We wanted to give back to the community and lower the barrier of entry by giving hands-on experience to the next generation of scientists, engineers, and programmers.”
A Pi at the heart of the rover
The rover uses a variety of tech makers may already have in their arsenal, including USB cameras and a Raspberry Pi. JPL’s design also gives you the option to swap out components with alternatives.
To control the rover, JPL decided to use a Raspberry Pi:
We chose a Raspberry Pi to be the ‘brain’ of this rover for its versatility, accessibility, simplicity, and ability to add and upgrade your own modifications. Any method with which you can communicate with a Raspberry Pi (Bluetooth, WiFi, USB devices, etc.) can be interfaced into the control system of the robot.
Full plans for the six-wheel rover are available on JPL’s GitHub, where they also list all parts required, final specs, and supporting info such as links to the project forum and parts suppliers. You can also visit the official project website to control your own rover on the surface of Mars…a simulated rover, of course, but one can dream!