For the last couple of years, the GoPiGo has been one of the most impressive robot kits available for the Raspberry Pi.
The build remains excellent for the latest version, GoPiGo3. Two 3D-printed acrylic boards house a Raspberry Pi 3 and GoPiGo3 board. To this, you attach the motors, a wireless networking dongle, a battery pack, and a USB thumb drive.
The build of the robot is relatively complex (although with fewer steps than the GoPiGo2 kit it replaces). It took us 45 minutes to put in all the screws, washers, and posts that connect the various parts together. This build time is about three times as long as most kits we encounter.
There are good photographic instructions, though, and we didn’t get stuck during the build process. More information on the build process can be found on the Dexter Industries website.
You might be wondering why it comes with a wireless dongle when the Raspberry Pi 3 has wireless built in. That’s because GoPiGo3 broadcasts its own wireless hotspot, so the minute you switch it on, you can connect to it via a local network called GoPiGo.
Thanks to this approach, as soon as you’ve finished the setup and inserted the eight batteries, it becomes an absolute breeze to start using the GoPiGo3. There’s a whole new DexterOS operating system to play with and it’s packed with features.
The robot transmits its network called GoPiGo. You connect to this network, and point a web browser to bloxter.com. You don’t need internet access to do this. You can log into the network from a from a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer; a tablet or smartphone; and of course, another Raspberry Pi.
The web interface starts with four options: Drive, Learn, Code in Bloxter, and Code in Python. Click Drive and you can move the robot around using the on-screen buttons. Tap Code in Bloxter and you can use Scratch-style blocks to control the robot. The Code in Python option lets you use a web-based Python IDE to program the robot with the GoPiGo3 software library (GitHub).
You can use Scratch to control the GoPiGo, but you need to switch the OS over to Raspbian for Robots. We think DexterOS has the better solution with Bloxter and Python. Based on Google Blocky, Bloxter is similar enough to Scratch.
On the whole, DexterOS is a slick solution that enables you to start controlling and programming the robot quickly. Perhaps more importantly, it combines the lessons and programming environment into one single space that doesn’t require an internet connection – the robot acts as a router. There are dozens of lessons covering movement, sensors, speakers, buzzers, and buttons.
Ready to teach
There’s a lot here for teachers. The GoPiGo is a great tool for introducing robotics to a classroom. It’s relatively easy to set up, very easy to connect to from a wide range of computers, network independent, and packed full of tutorials for visual and text-based programming environments.
The two motors have encoders built in, so you no longer have to attach these separately during the build. These act as tachometers, measuring the precise rotation of the wheels. The GoPiGo3 runs forward and backwards in a straight line, can move by precise amounts (such as 10 cm or 5 in), and turn with degree precision. It’s a small thing that makes a massive difference to the experience of using a robot.
There is a GoPiGo base kit for just $99. It includes the GoPiGo3 board, chassis, wheels, motors, encoders, and power battery pack. You need to add your own Raspberry Pi 3.
We tested the $199 Starter Kit, which comes with a Raspberry Pi 3, mini WiFi dongle, GoPiGo servo package, distance sensor, microSD card (with DexterOS software), 8GB USB drive, and power supply. It’s a useful complete package, but we think the base kit would be sufficient if you already have many of the components.
The 8GB USB drive is used to update the software. You add software updates to the USB drive, power up the GoPiGo robot, and it automatically updates its software – again, without the need to remove the SD card or connect to a network.
Both kits will be available soon in the UK from ModMyPi.
Dexter offers a range of accessories for the GoPiGo. The Starter Kit comes with a servo motor and distance sensor, but you can also add an ultrasonic distance sensor, sound sensor, buzzer, temperature and humidity sensors, camera, and line follower. You can find tutorials for each of the sensor projects in the GoPiGo3 documentation.
There’s a lot about this robot that makes it ideal for the classroom. Aside from the integrated lessons and programming environment, it’s a sturdy build. We’d wager it can take quite a few knocks.
Even if you’re not a student or a teacher, it’s a great robot kit. The built-in encoders make it more accurate than other robots, and there are plenty of holes on the board for adding your own custom equipment. We’ve got a lot of time for GoPiGo3, and we intend to spend a lot of time experimenting with it. Well done Dexter!
One of the best robotics kits you can buy, especially for teachers. DexterOS is delightful, bringing programming and learning into one space. Creating its hotspot frees the robot from network limitations.