Drawing Robot for Arduino




Note: I have a new version of this robot that uses a printed circuit board, is easier to build, and has IR obstacle detection! Check it out at http://bit.ly/OSTurtle

I designed this project for a 10-hour workshop for ChickTech.org whose goal is to introduce teenage women to STEM topics. The goals for this project were:

  • Easy to build.
  • Easy to program.
  • Did something interesting.
  • Low-cost so participants could take it home and continue to learn.

With those goals in mind, here were a couple of the design choices:

  • Arduino compatible for ease of programming.
  • AA battery power for cost and availability.
  • Stepper motors for accurate motion.
  • 3D Printed for ease of customization.
  • Pen plotting with Turtle graphics for interesting output.
  • Open Source so you could make one of your own!

Here is the robot that came closest to what I wanted to do: http://mirobot.io. I don't have a laser cutter and shipping from England was prohibitive. I do have a 3D printer, so I guess you can see where this is going . . .

Don't let the lack of a 3D printer deter you. You can locate local hobbyists willing to help you out at www.3dhubs.com

It took a lot of work, but I'm please with how it turned out. And, I learned quite a bit in the process. Let me know what you think!

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Step 1: Parts

There are a number of ways to power, drive, and control robots. You may have different parts on hand that will work, but these are the ones I've tried and found to work well:



Printed Parts (check out www.3dhubs.com if you don't have access to a printer):

  • http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1091401
    • 1 x Ball bearing caster
    • 1 x Chassis
    • 2 x Wheels
    • 2 x Stepper bracket
    • 1 x Pen Holder / servo bracket
    • 1 x Pen Collar
  • I use low-resolution, 100% fill, and no support. This is about 4 hours worth of printing.


  • Phillips screw driver
  • Hot glue gun
  • Digital multi-meter
  • Sharp knife
  • Crayola colored markers

Step 2: Flash the Firmware

Before we get too far into construction, lets load the test firmware on to the microcontroller. The test program just draws for boxes so we can check for proper direction and dimension.

  1. Download the Arduino software from www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Software
  2. Open the Arduino software.
  3. Download the attached zip file and unzip it to the Arduino sketchbook location.
    • You can find (or change) this location in the Arduino IDE: [File] -> [Preferences]-> "Sketchbook Location".
  4. Load the test sketch: [File] -> [Sketchbook] -> [TIRL_Arduino_TEST]
  5. Attach your Arduino to your computer with a USB cable.
  6. In the Arduino IDE:
    1. Set you board type: [Tools] -> [Board] -> Your board type.
    2. Set your serial port: [Tools] -> [Port] -> Usually the last one listed.
  7. Upload the sketch using the arrow icon.

If you have any problems, refer to www.arduino.cc/en/Guide/Troubleshooting for help.

Step 3: Pen Holder and Battery Holders

  1. Insert the nuts on the top side of the chassis (Image 1). You may have to press them in.
  2. Install the Pen Holder with the Servo Bracket on the top side of the chassis (Image 2 & 3).
  3. Attach the battery holders on the bottom of the chassis using 3Mx6mm flat-head screws (Image 4)
    • You need at least 5xAA to properly power an Arduino via it's onboard regulator. Six would work as well, so I've include holes for either size on both sides.
    • You want the weight shifted toward the caster, so put the 3xAA toward the back.
    • Orient the holders so the leads are closest to the rectangular cable runs.
  4. Thread the battery leads through the rectangular cable runs (Image 4).
  5. Repeat for the other battery holder.

Note: Unless specified, the remainder of the screws are 3Mx8mm pan head screws

Step 4: Stepper Backets

  1. Insert a nut into the stepper bracket and attach them to the top of the chassis with a screw (Image 1).
  2. Insert the stepper into the bracket and attach with screws and nuts.
  3. Repeat for the other bracket.

Step 5: Caster

  1. Insert the ball bearing into the caster.
    • Do not force it in or it will break. Use a hair-drier or hot air gun to soften the material if needed.
  2. Attach the caster to the bottom side of the chassis in front of the battery holder.

I've tried other round objects like marbles, but smooth and heavy seems to work well. If you need a different diameter, you can edit the openScad file (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1052674) to fit what ever you have on hand.

Step 6: Breadboard and Brains

  1. Remove one of the power rails using a sharp knife, cutting through the bottom adhesive (Image 1).
    • One rail has power (red) on outer edge, they other negative (blue). I'm keeping the first attached, and it will match the schematics and photos. If you use the other, just adjust the wires accordingly.
  2. Holding the breadboard over the chassis rails, mark where they intersect the edge (Image 2).
  3. Using a straight edge (like the removed power rail), mark the lines and cut through the backing (Image 3).
  4. Place the breadboard on the chassis with the rails touching the exposed adhesive (Image 4).
  5. Attach the Arduino to the other side of the chassis using 4-20 screws (Image 5).

Step 7: Capacitor and Part Placement

  1. Place the darlington driver and power switch on to the bread board (Image 1).
    • I've added orange dots for visibility to mark the following:
      • Pin 1 of the darlington driver
      • The battery pin of the microtroller.The power switch "on" position.
  2. Trim the capacitor leads if necessary (longer is negative) (Image 2).
  3. Insert the capacitor into the correct rails on the top of the breadboard (Image 3).

Step 8: Power

  1. With the right-hand battery leads:Connect the red line to the first pin of the power switch (Image 1).
  2. Connect the black lead to an empty row between the microcontroller and the darlington chip (Image 1).
  3. With the left-hand battery leads:Connect the red line to the same row as the black lead of the other battery (Image 2).
  4. Connect the black line to the negative rail of the breadboard (Image 2).
  5. Connect power to the microcontroller:
    1. Red jumper from positive rail to the battery pin (orange dot, Image 3).
    2. Black jumper from the negative rail to the pin marked "G" (Image 4).
  6. Install batteries and switch the power on (Image 5).
  7. You should see the green and red lights of the controller come on (Image 6).


  • If the microcontroller lights do not come on, immediately turn the power off and troubleshoot:
    • Batteries installed in the correct orientation?
    • Double check battery leads positioning.
    • Double check switch leads positioning.
    • Use a multi-meter to check voltages of batteries.
    • Use multi-meter to check power rail voltages.

Step 9: Stepper Power

Now that you've got power to the microcontroller, let's finish wiring power to the steppers:

  1. Connect a black jumper from the upper left darlington pin to the negative side of the power rail (Image 1).
  2. Connect a red jumper from the lower left darlington pin to the positive side of the power rail (Image 1).
  3. Connect a red jumper from the lower left darlington pin to one row right of the darlington (Image 2).
  4. Insert pin headers for the stepper's white JST connectors (Image 2).

Step 10: Stepper Control Signals

The microcontroller provides 5 volt signals to the darlington array which in turn, provides VCC to the stepper coils:

  1. Start with pin next to the ground pin on the darlington driver, and install orange, yellow, green, and blue wires in that order (Image 1).
  2. Attach the jumpers to the following arduino pins (Image 2):
    1. orange - Digital pin 4
    2. yellow - Digital pin 5
    3. green - Digital pin 6
    4. blue - Digital pin 7
  3. Back at the darlington, continue jumper for the other stepper in the reverse of the others:
    • blue, green, yellow, and orange (Image 3).
  4. Attach the jumpers to the following arduino pins (Image 4):
    1. blue - Digital pin 9 (pin 8 used latter for the servo).
    2. green - Digital pin 10
    3. yellow - Digital pin 11
    4. orange - Digital pin 12

Step 11: Stepper Coil Connections

The stepper's white JST connectors attach to the pin header. The red lead is power, and should match the red power jumpers we installed earlier (Image 1).

All colors should match the microcontroller jumpers on the opposite side of the darlington, with the exception of green, which matches the pink wire of the stepper (Image 2).

Step 12: Servo

  1. Install the servo horn with the servo rotated clockwise to the stop and the horn horizontal (Image 1).
  2. Attach the servo to the holder, and the horn pointed to the right stepper side (Image 1).
  3. Attach brown (ground), red (5V power), and white (signal) jumpers into the servo connector, matching the servo wire colors (Image 2).
  4. Attach the power and ground jumpers to the ground and 5V header on the Arduino (Image 3).
  5. Connect the white signal wire to the Arduino's Digital Pin 8 (Image 4).

Step 13: Wheels

  1. Place the rubber o-ring around the edge of the wheel (Image 1).
  2. If the fit of the hub on the axle is loose, you can use a 3M screw to hold it in place (Image 2).
    • Do not tighten it too much or you will strip the plastic.

Step 14: Testing

Hopefully you already uploaded the firmware in Step 2. If not, do it now.

The test firmware just draws a square repeatedly so we can check direction and accuracy.

  1. Place your robot on a smooth, flat, open surface.
  2. Turn the power on.
  3. Watch your robot draw squares.

If you are not seeing lights on the microcontroller, go back and troublshoot power as in Step 8.

If your robot is not moving, double check the power connections to the darlington driver in Step 9.

If your robot is moving erratically, double check the pin connections for the microcontroller and darlington driver in Step 10.

Step 15: Calibration

If your robot is moving in an approximate square, it is time to put some paper down and put a pen in it.

Measure your wheel diameter (Image 1) and wheel base (Image 2) in millimeters.

Your calibration settings in the code are:

float wheel_dia=63;     // mm (increase = spiral out)
float wheel_base=109;   // mm (increase = spiral in)
int steps_rev=128;      // 128 for 16x gearbox, 512 for 64x gearbox

I started with a measured wheel diameter of 65 mm and you can see the boxes rotating outward or clockwise each step (Image 3).

I eventually arrived at a value of 63mm (Image 4). You can see that there is still some inherent error due to gear lash and such. Close enough to do something interesting!

Step 16: Raising and Lowering the Pen

We've added a servo, but haven't done anything with it. It allows you to raise and lower the pen so the robot can move without drawing.

  1. Place the pen collar on the pen (Image 1).
    • If it is loose, tape it in place.
  2. Check that it will touch the paper when the servo arm is lowered.
  3. Check that it will not touch the paper when raised.

The servo angles can be adjusted either by removing the horn and re-positioning it, or through the software:

int PEN_DOWN = 20; // angle of servo when pen is down
int PEN_UP = 80;   // angle of servo when pen is up

The pen commands are:


If you want to use different pen sizes, you will have to modify the pen holder (www.thingiverse.com/thing:1052725) and pen collar (www.thingiverse.com/thing:1053273) with the correct diameter.

Step 17: Have Fun

I hope you made is this far without too many curse words. Let me know what you struggled with so I can improve the instructions.

Now it is time to explore. If you look at the test sketch, you will see I have provided you some standard "Turtle" commands:

forward(distance);   // millimeters
left(angle);         // degrees
done();              // release stepper to save battery

Using these commands, you should be able to do just about anything, from drawing snow flakes or writing your name. If you need some help getting started, check out:

Step 18: Other Platforms

Could this robot be done with a <Insert your favorite board here>?

Yes! This platform is very flexible. You would mainly just need to modify the chassis.

I've done it with a Raspberry Pi (Image 1) and an Adafruit Trinket (www.instructables.com/id/Low-Cost-Arduino-Compatible-Drawing-Robot/) (Image 2).

Let me know what you come up with!

7 People Made This Project!


  • Instrument Contest

    Instrument Contest
  • Make it Glow Contest

    Make it Glow Contest
  • STEM Contest

    STEM Contest

87 Discussions


5 months ago

this code for ics i need code sheld 293 plz i cant edit this code and i have all the parts but the problme is the code

3 replies

Reply 5 months ago

Can you post a link to the shield you are using?


Question 5 months ago on Introduction

Can I draw circles and can I draw a larger area about 5 meters from the pictures on the Arduino only? Without the need for an external card


Question 7 months ago

Why is it coming right then raises the handle down and it goes on all the time?


Reply 7 months ago

I'm assuming you have downloaded the "TIRL_Arduino_Test.ino" file from Step 2 and installed it.

The turtle commands like forward() and right() go in the loop() section of the file, starting on line 49. Step 10 of the Instructable show the different commands.

My Instructable https://www.instructables.com/id/Using-an-Arduino-Drawing-Robot-with-Hour-of-Code-T/ gives more information about learning how to make the turtle draw things.

Let me know your further questions.


7 months ago

What is the result of a single "forward(100)" command?

1 reply

Reply 7 months ago

Unfortunately I don't know where in the code it is necessary to write my commands. Can you explain?


Question 7 months ago

Hello, i'm from Russia and i have questions about arduino drawing bot, why when i assembled bot with your instructions drawbot isn't draw a squares it drew a sircle, can you help me? And how to programm it to my drawing, i'm didn't know

4 answers

Reply 7 months ago

That sounds like one of the wheel steppers is not working. If that was the case, it would pivot on the non-turning wheel, creating a small circle maybe 30mm in diameter. If that is the case, double-check the wiring for that stepper.


Reply 7 months ago

Unfortunately both wheels are spinning and the circle is about 10-20 cm in diameter


Reply 7 months ago

That is curious. I wonder if you have motors with different gearing on each side. There is a 64x version and a 16x version. Try and spin them by hand and see if they are different (the 64x version is much harder to spin). Also, modify your sketch to just do a forward(100) and see if it curves.


Reply 7 months ago

I'm found solution of my problem!! It need just turn 128 to 512 Here - int steps_rev=128


Question 9 months ago


Sorry for all the questions. To me, it looks like the batteries are wired for a series combination of nine volts, which appears to drive the stepper motors. Is this correct? I've seen many other plans for drawing robots which do similar things. If so, would the extra voltage make the motors overheat if run for ~10 minutes? I've searched everywhere trying to find out how much you can overdrive these stepper motors, and came up with nothing. Thanks!

2 answers

Reply 9 months ago

Did a little testing, and with continuous running at 7.5V both motors are pulling at total of 0.9A and they get pretty hot after about 4 minutes. If you need to do long runs, switch your 3 battery holder to 2 for 4 cells total (6V) which pull 0.7A and are only warm at 4 minutes. At the rated 5V, they only pull 0.55A. I've learned something!


Reply 9 months ago

Your questions are good. That is how we learn.
The stepper and servo are running directly off the batteries with 5 cells means 7.5V. The steppers are rated for 5V, but can be run higher. I haven't had any issues with heating. The PWM method of driving steppers means short pulses and not continuous current like normal DC motors.


Question 9 months ago


In the backward and forward functions of theTIRL_Arduino_TEST. sketch , it appears that the motors are turning in different directions, as both the forward and reverse masks are being used. In the left and right functions, it seems that both motors are turning in the same direction. My robot doesn't seem to be turning correctly. Am I not reading the code properly?
Thank you!

1 answer

Reply 9 months ago

Since the motors are in opposite orientation on the chassis, they must rotate in different directions to move the chassis strait. Does that make sense? They are polar opposites.