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September 2, 2011 AT 10:55 am

Hobby Robotics with Free Software

Merkur Hexapod

Hobby Robotics with Free Software – Arduino.

As I mentioned in my previous column, my son and I want to explore robotics as a hobby and a learning experience. We don’t have an unlimited budget, so I wanted to do some estimating of what it would cost to do it using different technology standards. In the first part, I explored Lego Mindstorms, but the open-hardware (and free software) Arduino system has been getting better and better. So I want to consider that possibility in this column and make a comparison to see which is a better option for us.

Arduino is much newer, having only come into its own in the last few years. But it’s also a fully open-hardware (or Open Source Hardware — meaning that the plans are free for anyone to use to make Arduino components), and indeed, there are multiple Arduino suppliers to choose from. Software host environments for communicating with and programming Arduino controllers are available as free software packages in various well-established programming languages. The whole Arduino culture is very free and open.

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1 Comment

  1. The Merkur M8 set referenced in Terry’s article is not available according to the link give, or the Merkur web site.

    Perhaps the Thing-i-verse hexapod might be an alternative:
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1603
    several other robots on thingiverse too, including a couple robot arms that would make good learning projects…
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2433
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:387
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:209
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:8220
    Ponoco et al could do the cutting if your local makerspace/techshop/fablab is not available (start one!)

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