How to build a competition-ready Raspberry Pi robot

With the recent announcement of the 2019 Pi Wars dates, we’ve collected some essential online resources to help you get started in the world of competitive robots.

bbc robot wars raspberry pi robot

Robotics 101

Before you can strap chainsaws and flamethrowers to your robot, you need to learn some basics. Sorry.

As part of our mission to put digital making into the hands of people across the globe, the Raspberry Pi Foundation creates free project tutorials for hardware builds, Scratch projects, Python games, and more. And to get you started with robot building, we’ve put together a series of buggy-centric projects!

Begin with our Build a robot buggy project, where you’ll put together a simple buggy using motors, a Raspberry Pi 3, and a few other vital ingredients. From there, move on to the Remotely control your buggy tutorial to learn how to command your robot using an Android phone, a Google AIY Projects Voice Kit, or a home-brew controller. Lastly, train your robot to think for itself using our new Build a line-following robot project.

Prepare your buggy for battle

Put down the chainsaw — we’re not there yet!

raspberry pi robot

For issue 51, The MagPi commissioned ace robot builder Brian Cortiel to create a Build a remote control robot feature. The magazine then continued the feature in issue 52, adding a wealth of sensors to the robot. You can download both issues as free PDFs from The MagPi website. Head here for issue 51 and here for issue 52.

Pi Wars

To test robot makers’ abilities, previous Pi Wars events have included a series of non-destructive challenges: the balloon-popping Pi Noon, the minimal maze, and an obstacle course. Each challenge calls for makers to equip their robot with various abilities, such as speed, manoeuvrability, or line-following functionality.

The Pi Wars team has shared a list of hints and tips from Brian Corteil that offer a great place to start your robotics journey. Moreover, many Pi Wars competitors maintain blogs about their build process to document the skills they learn, and the disasters along the way.

raspberry pi robot

This year’s blog category winner, David Pride’s Pi and Chips website, has a wealth of robot-making information.

If you’d like to give your robot a robust, good-looking body, check out PiBorg, robot-makers extraordinaire. Their robot chassis selection can help you get started if you don’t have access to a laser cutter or 3D printer, or if you don’t want to part with one of your Tupperware boxes to house your robot.

And now for the chainsaws!

Robot-building is a great way to learn lots of new skills, and we encourage everyone to give it a go, regardless of your digital making abilities. But please don’t strap chainsaws to your Raspberry Pi–powered robot unless you are trained in the ways of chainsaw-equipped robot building. The same goes for flamethrowers, cattle prods, and anything else that could harm another person, animal, or robot.

Pi Wars raspberry pi robot

Pi Wars 2019 will be taking place on 30 and 31 March in the Cambridge Computer Laboratory William Gates Building. If you’d like to take part, you can find more information here.

7 comments

Alex Bate

I have plans. I have so many plans.

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Please do tell! Would be great to have a team from the mothership next year!

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I’m showing off my robots at Raspberry fFelds, with past PiWars robots. You will be able to control a robot based on the MagPi feature robot in the poptastic #MicroPiNoon * where no balloon is left standing!
*Micro Pi Noon format was nicked from Pi Wars thanks to Mike & Tim
PS I may have a few Coretec Tiny 4WDs to play with as well ;-)

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We’re having a bit of a theme next year! It’s 50 years since…..

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Ohh that gives me some ideas!

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How do I get started building the most minimum pi robot? I have a son and would love to get started to teach him. Thanks!

Janina Ander

The easiest way to start is with our robot buggy project guide: https://projects.raspberrypi.org/en/projects/build-a-buggy
Plus the follow-on project guide for making the robot buggy remotely controlled: https://projects.raspberrypi.org/en/projects/remote-control-buggy

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