Do you want to build a Raspberry Pi Racing Car? Follow along… (#1 in the series)

Version 1 – Initial Prototype

You may have seen the videos of J2G2 (Version 1) from my blog post last October (2019). If you haven’t, for a quick recap, take a look at that post. Here is a video of J2G2 Version 1 in action.

Version 1 was the quintessential prototype. The design was relatively simple and I had no real objective with the car and design other than trying out various tech. I even used tape to hold some of the components to the chassis!

Despite the simplicity of the design, the car actually works and I can control it from a web browser with a touchscreen device (I tested with my iPhone). I even conducted some initial tests with machine learning using a Pixy Camera. The Pixy camera has onboard machine learning and could follow brightly colored objects. Version 1 could sort of follow objects, but I would not say it was reliable. Go visit the Pixy website to see more about how it works.

What will happen if I am more deliberate in design and setting objectives? Let’s find out!

Version 2 – Start your engines…er electric motors!

Here are some of the skills we will learn/use in building Version 2:

  • building curiosity in STEM
  • design
  • soldering basics
  • microelectronics
  • Python programming
  • and friendly competition!

Step 1: Define a Design Objective!

How about we build a Raspberry Pi racing car?

Before setting out on a journey, you should first decide where you want to go. In Version 1, I just wanted to learn about microelectronics in a free learning sort of way. Amazingly, I think that method worked well because I was able to build a simple car that worked.

I met my objectives for Version 1 with little rigor in design. Version 2, will require more rigor! According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to design is “to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan.”

Amazon’s DeepRacer League is a community and concept that seems to be gaining ground in the STEM DIY world. I am not familiar with all the specifics, but the technology and community look pretty cool. I encourage you to check out what they are doing! There are other communities, as well.

My blog series is just one way to begin to learn STEM skills like these described here. I am not building for the DeepRacer League or any league, just for personal/family racing.

Step 2 – Set Required Design Features

To meet my objective of building a racing Raspberry Pi Car, I think that Version 2 should:

  • Be easily controlled by children 6 and older
  • Be lighter weight than Version 1 (75% of Version 1 weight)
  • Have front and rear object sensing and avoidance
  • Have over-the-air software updates (for scaling to multiple cars)
  • Have open source, secure, and modular software design (good design)
  • Not use tape!

Other design requirements will fall out of these primary design requirements. For example, some form of remote control will be required. How I choose to satisfy that will be determined by cost and available technology. I may also find that those features are too difficult to achieve in Version 2 and I may need to push off to Version 3. This will be an iterative process.

If this blog post has piqued your interest learning STEM skills or in building a Raspberry Pi racing car check back for a follow-on post.

Here are a few images previewing Version 2 design prototyping.

Go to the next post (#2) in this series.