Introducing the GoPiGo

In a previous post I mentioned that our school had just taken delivery of a GoPiGo and promised to keep you posted on our journey, and just last week, the cling-wrap was removed and the exploration began. We sourced our GoPiGo base kit from ModMyPi in the UK and  this kit comes with everything you need to get started, including a robot body, motors, controls, and a power battery pack. What’s not included is a Raspberry Pi or batteries (Though a Starter Kit with everything is also available). One of the boons of the GoPiGo is that it’s modular so additional sensors/add-ons can be integrated and programmed. In our case we opted for a Distance Sensor coupled with a Servo Kit. So with everything unwrapped the build began. Not something for the faint hearted you may think but with a dedicated YouTube playlist boasting 19 step-by-step videos in addition to a comprehensive Setup Guide in PDF, GoPiGo creators have made the initial build as painless as possible (including the ultrasonic sensor and servo kit). In fact, you should be ready to go in under an hour (Some online reviews claim 20 minutes but I wouldn’t be banking on those kind of times in-class!)

So, with our GoPiGo assembled, it’s time to boot up and connect over ethernet. Again, a dedicated YouTube playlist is available, which will do the hand holding right through, including network config, updating Rasbian for Robots (A tweaked version of Raspian for the GoPiGo), flashing the firmware and testing the hardware. Key to all these steps on a PC is ensuring that Bonjour Print Services for PC is installed (You’ll have it already, if you use iTunes). This simplifies the connection process, allowing you to access the GoPiGo through a browser with the URL ‘dex.local’, rather than having to first find the ip address and then use this in your browser instead. Once at the dex.local webpage you can choose whether you want to use VNC or Terminal to proceed. The former is strongly recommended, this will open a user-friendly desktop with icons and folders where you can proceed with the updates and testing outlined online, (The latter terminal option will have you staring at a stark command line window). And that’s it, your self-assembly robotic car is built and connected, ready and waiting to be controlled via the network using Scratch (Or Python).

So that’s as far as we’ve got, but think there’s more than enough here to get for those interested, to get their teeth into. I plan to post again before Christmas and recap on our programming exploits at that stage but in the meantime, you’ll find a whole host of lessons covering movement, sensors, speakers, buzzers, and buttons, over on the Dexter Industries website. There’s also a superb downloadable Scratch Programming Guide (for those already using Scratch) and indeed a Python Guide, if that’s what you’re after (though I think we’ll be sticking with Scratch for the foreseeable future!).

It is important to flag, that since purchasing our GoPiGo 2 last year, version 3 has been released but most of the above setup and config still applies (The major change is software-based with Dextor OS and Bloxter replacing Rasbian for Robots). However, irrespective of whether you’ve access to (Or plan buying) a GoPiGo 1, 2 or 3, this DIY bot car is arguably the most impressive, user-friendly and reasonably priced robot kit for Raspberry Pi out there. It’s a great tool for introducing robotics and programming in class as It’s easy(ish) to set up, easy to connect, OS independent and is supported by comprehensive step-by-step tutorials.

More to follow soon…

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