Picture of RC truck robot conversion
This Instructable covers the conversion of a cheap off-the-shelf RC truck into a powerful robot vision platform capable of ball following, etc.

I always like seeing the projects around the world using expensive robots, running complex vision processing software and dreamt of the day I would have my own to play with.

Win the lottery or build one on the cheap?

Cheap wins every time.

I say cheap, but what I mean is cheap-ish. It depends on how complicated you want it to be and how much you have lying around. Maybe it should be "cheap compared to a Corrobot or Whitebox robot" (although they have much more functionality)


Parts required

Toyabi Skullcrusher RC monster truck
SSC-32 for webcam tilt
Logitech Pro 9000 webcam
Sabertooth 2x10a speed controller
Dell C610 laptop system board + proc + memory + wireless
12v - 19v converter to run laptop from 12v SLA battery
12v battery (I used a 12v SLA 7ah but its a bit too heavy, maybe a LIPO?)
RS232 - TTL converter (homemade or Ebay) for Sabertooth
USB - RS232 converter for SSC-32
Remote control unit and keyfob (homemade or Ebay) - this is a failsafe so I can cut power to the Sabertooth
USB hub
12V fan
Old satellite set-top box - emptied this and used it as a box to house it all in.


Windows Xp

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Where did u find all these parts
OracsRevenge (author)  bradley1marler9 months ago
Amazon and Ebay
mike0101011 year ago
im using pwm to drive the sabertooth w/ 9.6v source..doesn't seem to generate enough power to turn the vehicle properly. Wondering if i should be using a larger battery..
Do you know how much voltage and amperage the motors require?
OracsRevenge (author)  mike0101011 year ago
This was a few years ago. I used a 12V 7aH lead acid battery, but replaced it eventually with an 11.1v 4aH LIPO which worked well.

I never measured the current draw but at a guess you would need to supply a peak current of around 5 amps.
Hi i'm looking at starting in robotics and was wondering if anyone knew where I can get a cheap RC robot kit or cheap parts to build one. I have basic soldering skills but no programming skills.
OracsRevenge (author)  TheUntrained1 year ago
Hi, you may be better starting with something like Lego Mindstorms or Vex, there are communities out there for support and ideas,. Thanks
brenryan2 years ago
Hi Oracs,

Nice build.

I'm trying to do something similar, using a single board linux computer to make a remote control rover style robot.

Like this:

I'm also using a Toyabi Skullcrusher and I will be going with a camera setup similar to yours rather than the above.

I was wondering if you could please post or PM a few more detailed pics + instructions of the camera mount and servo assembly.

It would be a great help for me if you could show how you did it to get some ideas going. I may have to try and modify it to have pan and tilt, but this would be a great starting point for me if it's not too much trouble.

Many thanks mate, keep up the good work...
OracsRevenge (author)  brenryan2 years ago

Sorry, I have had a check and I don't have a better photo available.

The tilt was achieved by drilling and screwing in a small ball joint to the camera and using a wire link to a servo to tilt up and down.

This didn't work particularly well and if I was to do it again, I would by a simple pan and tilt set-up similar to this

So you were able to control it complete from the dell pc using Roborealm?

For someone with no experience using a Sabertooth speed controller, would you say that would be easier than using an Arduino UNO and motor controller?

Thanks! Awesome bot
OracsRevenge (author)  tommytwoeyes3 years ago

Roborealm has an inbuilt control module for interfacing with the Sabertooth so there is nothing to learn for it, you just need to tweak some of the variables in the module to get the right responses.

The entire robot is controlled from RR, even tilting the camera up and down (via the Lynxmotion servo controller)

Roborealm really needs to be run on an onboard PC, if you are using an Ardunino, you could possibly use it as a control/sensor slave for the robot back to a base PC running RR.

Thanks man.

Would any typical laptop PC board work? What are the minimum system requirements for the board in a bot like yours?

OracsRevenge (author)  tommytwoeyes3 years ago
The better the board, the more frames per second Roborealm can process.

This leads to faster and more accurate control of the robot.

If I was making the robot again, I would use a cheap Netbook running windows. as they are much easier to power and you can see the results on the Netbook screen.

You can still slave using openVNC to another laptop so you can see what it's doing and take control at a distance if you need to.

You are probably best to download the trial version of Roborealm and play around for a while with a webcam.

It sounds like really awesome software. Thanks for your advice!
Dearden8053 years ago
Whats the total cost???
vicky6664 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
so then how come you haven't done it yet? where is your instructable on it?
MCzone zack2473 years ago
he has nothing against his desighn, or he does not know how
hintss vicky6664 years ago
well, I found out, from reading that, that electrolytic capacitors blow under PWM. evidently not a waste of time for me. I also found out about roborealm.
Dude don't hate. If you don't like it, then don't hang around long enough to post a comment. Or contribute and make it better. One of the reasons I like this website is because everyone's usually friendly
it is working without remote
it is computer controled
jssteinke4 years ago
When I do this, I'm going to program it in labview. :) NI vision assist is easy to use.
yuck! dont waste your time with that garbage software! i used it when i was doing frc in school and it was soooooo limiting ! go check out c# 2008 and openCV it'll blow your mind! plus you dont have to own that silly compact Rio. 700 dollar paper weight!
Haha, i respect your descision, I'm in FRC too! I am just saying that vision assistant is very easy to use, i would like to (re)learn C#, i have used C dialects in the past. I've been wanting to write our code in the C IDE, that comes with the FRC KOP, but it'd be easier for newbies to learn labview, so i have to continue the legacy, lol.
yeah its just that all the frc stuff is sooo cushy! it never gets down into the nitty gritty of device i/o, everythings all wrapped up so in a way it is fast to code for their platform but so limited. but seriously check out c# its very intuitive and super easy to learn because the ide suggests code for you.. BTW GO BUY AN ARDUINO! learning how to code on that is awsome because its sooo similar to other languages, java, c ,c++, processing, ruby, perl...
our cRIO isn't detecting battery voltage, even though it turns on. any help?

anyway, I think that the cRIO is a form of a PLC, isn't it?
Yeah the cRIO is a PLC, it is mainly used as a FPGA, but also has a ARM or something in it. One thing to try is to make sure your analog input board is connected to the right slot, and the module in that slot is right. i think its a 9134 or 9234 or something like that. The smaller connector. The cRIO cant read the voltage you give directly to it though, it can only read the voltage on the analog slot. Also make sure on the analog breakout board, the big 2 pin connector is connected to your power distribution board. If this dosent help, just ask for more help.
well, we moved the parts around, and it still wouldn't work.

anyway, where exactly is the voltage read again?
oh, also, the motor controllers are blinking red, could this be related?
and the thing without the repurposed parallel port goes on the side with ethernet, right?
The voltage isnt read from the voltage coming into the ethernet side of the cRio with the 4 pin connector thing. The voltage is read using the Analog Breakout Board wich plugs into one of the crio modules. You can look at the FRC control system manual here

lso try looking at the cRio manual

f you still need help just ask

so the analog board is the one with a red PCB connected an top, right?
Yes it is
Also, the motor controllers should always blink red when idle. The only stay solid colors when you send FOrward/Backward commands
Yeah, i have an arduino, and have created lots of awsome things on it, our FRC team was thinking of using it instead of the cRIO, for the fun of it.
haha! ive done that too! its actually way easy to convert the hardware to work with a arduino, just take your time and make some custom connectors on a protoshield to your arduino, also i used a computer with vspe installed to remotely drive the robot through a adhawk network
Thanks for the idea, weve been trying to find a way for wireless communication, we'll probably use the ethernet shield. Something fun we were thinking of doing for some school cred, would be to put the frc bot on our schools wireless, then just drive the robot around using the IP cam for wireless vision
dude! thats also what i did! hey if you want some software to drive the whole thing email me! i wrote it all in c# (-arduino code)
I'll pm you soon, hope to hear from you!
[corosive]4 years ago
is it really expensive?
in jimmy neutron cartoon
it is a pet of jimmy names goddard
it is like a dog
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