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DIY Arduino Remote Control and Lego RC Vehicle!!

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Picture of DIY Arduino Remote Control and Lego RC Vehicle!!
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UPDATE (8/29/13): Thank you readers for your enthusiasm and kind remarks regarding this project! It has been a tremendous journey since I started this project back in March, but I am very glad with the resulting product and the excitement with which it has been received by the maker community. Happy building! -Cyrus

Do you like Legos?
Do you like Arduinos?
Do you like RC things that you can bring to life with the flick of a thumb?
I certainly do, so today I’ll be showing you how to make something that combines all of the above into one and go over a ton of other useful techniques and best practices as well!


     I’ll start by giving a brief description of what I made, and then I’ll follow with not just how to make it, but the reasons behind it too! By explaining all the steps involved (like the design, planning, 3D modelling, and even the Lego-building and laser-cutting!) and the decisions and thought process behind those steps (as well as the CAD files and code), I hope not only to share with you what you will need to make what I have, but also useful background and techniques that you can use not only in your own version of this project, but in all your other DIY projects too! Lastly, if there anything that I might have missed or that you need additional information or clarification about, or if you have any questions whatsoever, please feel free to ask me in the comments or to message me! Now lets get started! 

    As you might have guessed from the title or seen in the video, the project I've been hinting towards consists of two parts: a completely custom Arduino remote control, and a servo-powered RC Lego car!

   The Lego part of the RC vehicle is a medium-sized chassis built around a Lego drivetrain with four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering. The RC part is a set of four standard hobby servos powering the drivetrain; an Arduino, for controlling everything; and an XBEE radio, for communication with the remote control. There is also an onboard power supply (it’s an RC car! Of course it has one!).

    The second part of the project is the remote control. It’s about the size of a Gameboy Advance; has a 2.2” LCD color display; is built around an Arduino microcontroller; has a joystick, two potentiometers, and four buttons for input; and has the same type of XBEE radio module the RC vehicle does. All of this is housed in a custom enclosure made entirely from laser-cut acrylic. The remote control supports USB cable operation via the serial port on the Arduino, but it can also be operated off a 9V battery which can be mounted onboard, allowing the entire remote to be operated, well, remotely. Fun stuff.

    Now that you know what you’ll be making, we can start actually making it.
Everything you'll need file-wise is available for download on my site, Kayrus.com.
Here's the link: www.kayrus.com/legos/diy_rc_zip (it should download automatically)
Included in the zip file are the latest Inventor part files (.ipt's), the combined AutoCAD drawing (.dwg), and the latest Arduino code for the car and Handuino (.ino's) and I'll let you all know if I make updates or improvements to these!
 
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ruffyD6 months ago

Hey man, great Post!

I want to build a autonomous arduino/lego based vehicle, so I'm mainly interested in the awesome car part. I currently don't have any lego anymore. Could you recomment a set to start off with? The choice is overwhelming.

Crtlego (author)  ruffyD5 months ago

Hi ruffyD!

Sorry for the late response!

Your feeling of being overwhelmed is natural.. There are so many options to choose from! If you're not picky about old vs new parts, I would go on Ebay and see if you can buy a huge lot of Technic parts that are cheap and used. Often, buying a single new set won't give you the parts you need to make good modifications, but maybe by combining a new set with an excess of old parts, you'll have enough to do what you want! Let me know what your interests are and maybe I can find a perfect set for you! Happy building! (:

hassaan22 Crtlego5 months ago

Hey, I am also looking for a set of legos and am overwhelmed. I do not care if they are new or old, or one kit, or scattered. I want to make the car really similar to yours, except I want to develop an iphone app that will control the car.

In terms of the car, I have prototyped one already, except I just have a base, and 4 circular wooden wheels I found at a craft store. The problem is that I am unable to attach the servos on the axles and I can never get the alignment. I want to make something out of legos, where, basically, I can use two motors to turn the wheels, a servo or two to control the direction of wheels, and a platform on which I can rest my battery pack/arduino/breadboard. Thank you for your help, and it would be great if you can direct me to some lego type parts!

snug10669 months ago
Possibly the best write up on the site well done
Crtlego (author)  snug10665 months ago

Thank you! I really appreciate that (:

supmadsci1 year ago
Wow! This is really exceptional work, nice job
Crtlego (author)  supmadsci5 months ago

Thanks! (:

I can't wait to pull my old footlocker out filled with Legos and get to work on this. Amazing job.
Crtlego (author)  MohawkMarine5 months ago

I can't tell you how glad I am to hear that (:

You2131 year ago
amazing I wish I had the resources for this very good job!!!!!!
Crtlego (author)  You2135 months ago

Thanks! The right resources are often hard to come by.. but with some tinkering, one can often make do! Happy making!

stevedawg1 year ago
That's awesome I voted so hope u win
Crtlego (author)  stevedawg5 months ago

Thank you! Every vote counts (:

pamissah5 months ago
Man , I really like your work it's awesome. I even would like to make that as my next project at sch. I would highly appreciate it if you can send me a schematic of both the remote control and the Lego car. My email : amissah.prince@gmail.com
Crtlego (author)  pamissah5 months ago
Thank you! I'll message you privately (:
Purely amazing! i started a project like this but could not finis but i have studied your model and found the missing link!. Thank you very much!
Crtlego (author)  the alphabet1 year ago
You're most welcome. I'm just glad you were able to find the missing link for your project with my project!! Out of curiosity, though, what was it that you were missing?
Why aren't we funding this?
Crtlego (author)  Creatively Insane 1 year ago
What do you have in mind?
pmistri11 year ago
can i have the code?
Crtlego (author)  pmistri11 year ago
Its available on my site. Just go to http://www.kayrus.com/legos/diy_rc_zip
Amazing
Crtlego (author)  FoamboardRC1 year ago
Thanks (:
You can download LEGO Digital Designer, you can make the vehicle in 3D and the software can give you a instruction step by step
Crtlego (author)  EdwinGrana21 year ago
Just to make sure, are you asking for me to use LDD to make instructions for the Lego part of the project? I would be glad to do it in SR 3D, but I just wanted to check to see if that is what you were asking for. I'll definitely be putting up more pictures once I take it apart.
mweaver81 year ago
this combines two of my favorite hobbies!
i am just starting with Arduino.
good job
Crtlego (author)  mweaver81 year ago
Thanks! It combined my two favorite hobbies as well!!
Have fun and best of luck! Arduino is a great system to get involved with.
my wookie1 year ago
very nice, there is one more thing id like to see out of this however, try doing this with Lego motors connected to standard hobby esc's
Crtlego (author)  my wookie1 year ago
Thank you. Actually, using Lego motors was my original intention. I just didn't have the right motor controllers at the time of the build (they consume a lot of current).
steve0001 year ago
It doesn't look like it was made out of pasta??? (legos)
It does look like LEGO though, great build
Crtlego (author)  steve0001 year ago
Thanks!
carlos66ba1 year ago
Very nice setup. Can you also consider adding the arduino sketches and lego nxt programs? Also: have you thought if it wouldbe possible to interact directly via usb or to connect the xbee radio directly to the nxt?
Crtlego (author)  carlos66ba1 year ago
Its so very interesting that you asked that! USB to XBEE communication is exactly how I got started! I probably should have talked more about this in the Instructable..but, YES, it is most certainly possible!

You'll need two things (besides an XBEE): a board to connect the XBEE to the USB, and the right software to communicate with the port.
For the board, I used this little guy from Sparkfun (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/8687). You'll need a mini-to-A USB cable if you want to use it with your computer, but the board's really handy (you also need it if you want to configure your XBEE)!
Software-wise, I've used two programs to communicate directly with the XBEE.
     One is called X-CTU. Its made by the same people who made the XBEE (Digi) and it gives you all the options and tools you'll need to configure all the settings of your radio if you don't like it out of the box. It also serves our purposes, though, by having a Terminal that lets you type out Serial data straight to the radio. Provided you have all the data transmission rates and channels set properly, you could technically have your own private little chatroom with local XBEEs (or one on your own computer if you opened two windows up at the same time).
     The second one is called Termite, and its by CompuPhase (http://www.compuphase.com/software_termite.htm). This one's much simpler and is essentially the "Terminal" part of X-CTU. It still has the options needed to properly communicate through your USB port to the X-CTU, but, if I understand correctly, you cannot change the actual settings on the radio. As far as controlling the RC car I built or doing other XBEE communication, though, both this and X-CTU are good places to start. Did I mention they are both free? Just checking.
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     As far as XBEE and NXT communication goes, I'm not sure what the possibilities are (I never really experimented with the NXT in depth, even with my love for Lego). I imagine somebody has worked out a way to do communicate serially via USB with the NXT, so if that's possible, I suppose you could hook an NXT up to the XBEE? I know a couple of Lego fans that might like that..
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With regards to programs and sketches, I have uploaded the latest stable release of my Arduino code/sketch for both the remote control and the Arduino on the car. They are in a zip file on my website along with the CAD files: http://www.kayrus.com/legos/diy_rc_zip


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armstk1801 year ago
Awesome project !
I like it and i vote you :)
Crtlego (author)  armstk1801 year ago
Thanks!! Much appreciated (:
Lforador1 year ago
This is great amazing first instructable
Crtlego (author)  Lforador1 year ago
Thanks!! (: