February 05, 2015

SimpleBot Pi at the Linux Conference in Auckland

Twenty-four keen participants built their own automonous robot, named "SimpleBot Pi", last month as part of the Open Hardware MiniConf (co-organised by Jon Oxer) at Linux Conference Australasia in Auckland.

The SimpleBot Pi is the latest iteration of the open source SimpleBot design by fellow Melbournian Andrew Fisher. Andrew is part of a group called "NodeBots AU", who use the Node.js software platform and the Johnny-Five programming framework to introduce hobby robotics to beginners in a friendly fashion.

Electronically, the of SimpleBot Pi is made up of three boards in a top-to-bottom sandwich:

  • The SimpleBot Shield, assembled on the day, provides breakouts for various sensors, connectors, and the two continuous rotation servos that act as motors.
  • A Freetronics PiLeven provides an Arduino-compatible microcontroller attached to the Pi, for low level hardware control. The PiLeven's built-in switch-mode power supply also powers the Pi from the robot's battery pack.
  • A Raspberry Pi Model B+ provides a high-level WiFi-connected environment to control the robot, so it can interact with its environment.

The builders all had different levels of experience, but almost everyone had a working SimpleBot by the end of the build session.


One of the first uses for brand new SimpleBots was jousting! (or robot hugs, whichever you prefer.)


By the end of the conference a few people had programmed their SimpleBots to do more adventurous things, including Stephen's which sported a camera:

I even snagged a SimpleBot selfie:


SimpleBots (with their RGB LEDs flashing) also made a brief appearance in Thomas Sprinkmeier's excellent talk "How to train your minions", about having fun while teaching technology skills to kids:


If you're interested in learning more about the SimpleBot, a design overview and assembly steps are on the Open Hardware MiniConf Wiki. If all goes well, we are hoping to have some more SimpleBot kits available later in the year for intrepid robot builders! Keep an eye on our friends from NodeBotsAU as well.

Massive thanks to everyone helped us with Open Hardware MiniConf 2015 - including Vik Oliver, Andrew Fisher for all his SimpleBot work, Andy Gelme & Alec Clews from the Melbourne Hackerspace for their development work, the volunteers who came along on the day to provide soldering and troubleshooting assistance, and everyone who came to build a robot.

 The 2016 conference will be in Geelong. Hopefully we'll see you there!



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