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Getting started with robotics and the Raspberry Pi

Creating a robot to compete in Pi Wars is not an easy thing, but hopefully by the time you’ve read this page and the others in this section, you’ll know how to start!

On these pages, we will try and help you get started with robotics and continue your journey in developing remote-control and autonomous robots with the Raspberry Pi.

If you notice anything missing from these pages and/or would like to contribute, please get in touch here.

First steps – finding a kit

You may find, when building your robot, that you want to start with a kit you can buy off-the-shelf rather than assembling the parts yourself. Here are some suggested kits to help get you started on your robotics journey.

Deciding on a motor controller

Once you’ve experimented with a kit, or if you’re a little more experienced, you may want to build a robot from scratch. Many kits come with motor controllers, but here is a list of suggested motor controller boards that you can buy that may give your robot extra abilities or give you access to better power sources.

Getting moving with motors

If you do decide you want to build your own from scratch, or you decide you want your robot to go faster or have more torque, you may want to swap out your motors. For a full guide to motors, and suggestions for which motors to buy, take a look at this page.

Getting control of your robot

There are several different types of remote control you can use. They each have their advantages and disadvantages and we have prepared this summary of controllers and their plus and minus points.

Prepare your power

Powering your robot, and your Raspberry Pi, can be achieved in a variety of different ways. We hope to soon have a quick guide to the different methods we see at Pi Wars and their advantages and disadvantages. In the meantime, here’s a page with our battery safety guidelines for competition days.

Programming your robot

For Pi Wars, you will want to explore both Remote Control and Autonomous movement. Once you’ve assembled your robot, software is the next step. Here are some of the libraries and utilities that can be used in robotics: GPIO Zero, GUI Zero, Approxeng.input, CWIID (for Bluetooth control from a Wii controller – this may not work on newer Pis, though).

Additional reading and watching

There are several books about Raspberry Pi and robotics. On this page, we have assembled a list of some of the best robotics and Python books.

There are also plenty of video tutorials and guides out there. We’ve put together a list of videos that may help.

Competing tips

Brian Corteil, who is a two-time Pi Wars winner in the Advanced category, has compiled a list of hints and tips for Pi Wars roboteers which range from the obvious to the less obvious and may be key to competing in our competition.