We look at the new YetiBorg robot kit. Does its diminutive size make it better for beginners?
Recently at The MagPi we took a look at the DiddyBorg v2 robot kit from PiBorg. This relatively large kit from the PiBorg team is a fantastic, robust robot kit that is fantastic for veteran Raspberry Pi robot builders wanting something a bit more advanced to play with. We don’t think it’s the best kit to choose for beginners, though, which is where the YetiBorg v2 comes in.
This article first appeared in The MagPi 71 and was written by Rob Zwetsloot
In comparison to the DiddyBorg, it’s pretty small, although it’s definitely not the smallest Pi robot kit out there. Unlike other beginner-friendly robot kits, it includes all the high-quality parts and chassis you’d expect from a PiBorg kit. This quality comes at a price, though, and at £160 it’s quite a bit more than your classic robot starter kit.
Construction is pretty simplified, with a fantastic step-by-step guide that takes you through the entire build process. There’s no soldering involved as it comes complete with pre-soldered motors and a Raspberry Pi Zero with a pre-soldered GPIO header. We received our YetiBorg fully constructed, in fact, but we estimate you’d be able to build it in under an hour, and the software won’t take you long to sort out either.
This kit comes with a ZeroBorg, a quad motor controller designed with the Pi Zero in mind. While it may be smaller than the ThunderBorg controller used in the DiddyBorg, the ThunderBorg is only able to control two (or two sets of) motors at a time. This means the YetiBorg is truly a four-wheel-drive robot. Like the ThunderBorg, you can stack ZeroBorgs to add more motor controls if you wish, and while it is designed around the Pi Zero form factor, there’s no reason you can’t use it with a full-sized Raspberry Pi if you so wish.
The YetiBorg comes with example scripts to get you started, including a remote control script using a game controller, a web interface that lets you see through a mounted Pi camera (not included), automated scripts, and more. You can use these to learn how the robot works and then cobble together your own scripts so the robot will do as you wish.
While the ZeroBorg code is still quite complex as per the ThunderBorg code, it’s a bit easier to understand overall. It’s no GPIO Zero but it’s still readable, although we suggest that you already have a basic grasp of Python before tackling it.
Still, it’s quite fun to have the YetiBorg trundling around using a game controller. It’s not super-quick either, so you won’t have any problems with it running off your table or smashing into walls, and the extra functions with the example remote-control script – such as a button to reduce your speed – give you an idea of how you can program and control the YetiBorg.
One of the selling points of the YetiBorg over the DiddyBorg is that it’s for people getting into Raspberry Pi robotics; however, we’re not quite convinced that it is. At least, we wouldn’t say it’s well suited to kids or teens looking to learn about the Pi, computing, and robotics with a Raspberry Pi robot kit. The barrier for entry with the code is just a little too high compared to other robot kits we’ve used in the past.
However, we do think it’s quite well suited for adults confident in their computing skills who want to try their hand at robotics with a Raspberry Pi. The simple setup allows anyone to get it up and working pretty quickly, while the example scripts help you to become familiar with the ZeroBorg libraries. Whereas kids’ robot kits tend to be a bit cheap and disposable, the YetiBorg works well as a basic platform to then grow from, rather than throwing it away when you get your new robot kit.
As for younger makers, while it may not be a good first kit, it could perhaps make an excellent second kit to really learn about the ways of Raspberry Pi robotics.
More of an adult beginner’s kit than a young maker’s kit, this robot is still a great product from the PiBorg team for those wanting something smaller than the DiddyBorg.