We take PiBorg’s current flagship hobby robot for a spin
We’re always excited when a new PiBorg product crosses our desk. The team have a history of the making top-quality Pi robot kits, and the new DiddyBorg looked to be no exception.
This article first appeared in The MagPi 70 and was written by Rob Zwetsloot
This DiddyBorg is a six-wheel powerhouse built on a sturdy acrylic and metal chassis. It’s controlled by a Raspberry Pi (that you supply yourself) and the ThunderBorg – the dedicated robot controller that controls several motors and has I2C pins for adding sensors etc. These boards are stackable so that you can add more motors and such, and they handle the current from robot-appropriate batteries to power both the motors and the Pi itself. It’s a nifty piece of kit on its own, and the DiddyBorg does a great job of giving you a glimpse at its power.
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Very handy build instructions, complete with relevant photos, are included online for the DiddyBorg. Construction is fairly easy: just put in a few screws in the right place, solder on a few wires, connect it all up to the ThunderBorg and Raspberry Pi, and you’re done.
For the odd bit that is fiddly, there are plenty of pictures to make sure you’re doing it the right way, such as plugging wires into screw terminals or perfectly aligning the hubs on the motors for the wheels.
We received our robot pre-constructed, but we’d estimate it’ll take a couple of hours maximum to build the kit and set up the basic software on your Raspberry Pi, depending on your expertise. PiBorg recommends using a full-size Pi model rather than a Zero or A+. It would technically work with either of those but it doesn’t have the mounting points on the chassis, so you’d have to do some customisation if you insisted on using them.
Although there are no immediate mounting points for, say, a Pi Zero, there are plenty of extra mounting points along the chassis for sensors and such which can be connected to the Pi directly or via the ThunderBorg where appropriate. Out of the box, it works well as a remote-control robot but with these extra sensors and a Pi Camera Module, you can turn it into a true automaton.
All the code is done in Python and allows for a lot of control over how the DiddyBorg functions. Some of the code examples might seem intimidating to first-time robot builders, but they are explained pretty well so with a bit of trial-and-error even Python beginners should be able to cobble together code to make the robot do what they want.
It does mean though that advanced robot hobbyists have a greater level of control over the DiddyBorg than they might do with other robot kits. And due to the quality of the DiddyBorg, it would serve well as a base for a bigger robot project or even just a test bed for other builds.
With six powerful motors and a sturdy base, the DiddyBorg is a very stable and powerful bit of kit. It won’t zip off at the mere touch of a controller, and this means it also has a fair bit of torque behind the wheels. The motors can be finely controlled with differing power requirements, so its speed can vary depending on how you need to use it, which is very nice.
While we miss the full-metallic builds of older PiBorg kits, the acrylic chassis is a bit easier to work with and still extremely strong. It can take a small hit or a tumble and still work just fine, making it perfect for testing, while still being excellent as your actual main robot.
It’s not something we’d recommend for beginners, though – PiBorg has other, simpler kits anyway which may be better suited to that. However, as a lot of Raspberry Pi robot kits skew towards being beginner-friendly, it’s nice to see something aimed at a more veteran audience who would appreciate it at the (relatively) low price.
A big kit for big people, this powerful robot kit can be used in almost for any Raspberry Pi hobby robot solutions, although we’d say it’s not really for beginners.