Zippy the Raspberry Pi Zero-powered mini Mars Rover

Maker Mellow was inspired by watching the progress of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover and wanted in on the interplanetary robot scene. Their first idea was to build a scale version of Perseverance, but when their partner stepped in to suggest that starting smaller might be a little easier, Zippy was born.

Zippy 3.0 showcase courtesy of Mellow’s reddit post

Hardware

Raspberry Pi Zero W

Motor driver L298N Mini

3V-6V gear motors

Buck converter

ProtoTank (a bolt-together modular tank-style robotics platform)

Zippy mini mars rover insides
Inside Zippy

Zippy’s basic parts haven’t changed much through its three iterations. You can follow the journey of Zippy 1.0 through 3.0 on Mellow’s website. You’ll see that some additional hardware was required when Mellow made some improvements.

Baby Zippy

The first version of Mellow’s mini Mars rover was just a motor on a 3D-printed body, controlled by plugging in wires to the battery. But Mellow was desperate to level up their robot and build something that could be controlled by an Xbox controller. They reached that goal with Zippy 2.0 and can drive the mini Mars rover remotely via Bluetooth. However, the range is quite tight, so slow runners need not apply for the job of pilot.

Zippy 3.0 comes complete with a DJI Osmo Action camera to capture its adventures.

Baby Zippy 1.0 playing on the carpet

What surfaces can Zippy ride on?

Our favourite part of Mellow’s original project post is the list rating how good Zippy is at navigating various types of terrain (some of which are showcased in the video up top):

Sand – NO it gets stuck in the wheels

Big rocks – NO the robot is too low to the ground and gets stuck

Pebbles – with determination

Grass – only very short grass

Human bodies – surprisingly well

Carpets – Zippy loves carpets

Flat terrain – definitely

Zippy 2.0 out on the road

Here’s all the code you need to build your own mini Mars rover.

Follow the real thing on Mars

Keep up with NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover on Twitter. Perseverance spent its summer drilling into rocks, and has photos to prove it.

1 comment

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Excellent project for try on motors with a scheme

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