RC car + picaxe == ??

Hey all. I've got a fairly simple remote control car which is just begging for a microcontroller and some robotification. However, I'm not
sure what it should be used for. I was considering line following, but I can't see a useful application for that, other than "Hey, look what I did!"
Keeping in mind that I'm a relative noob, does anyone have suggestions as to what this little guy could be used for?
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Ian Kilgore
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Almost all hobbyist robotics has that as its only application. I think it's best to accept it, or find a more useful hobby (knitting or furniture-making, perhaps). But for most of us, how useful the applications are really isn't important; it's about learning new skills and building something cool.
Best, - Joe
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That's true. I shouldn't have used the word 'useful'. My goal /is/ to build something cool, regardless of how useful it may or may not be. I'm just looking for something that hasn't been done quite so many times.
I was considering having it 'find' something. Drive around a room looking for an object (which, for the sake of simplicity, would be something easily locatable... IR, RF, etc), and stop when it finds it.
Thoughts?
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Well, one thing I've always wanted (but haven't yet done) is a robot which can find its own charging station, charge itself up, and then go back out to roam the world. This is nontrivial, but could be a goal to work towards.
Another idea: make it serve drinks at your next party. I don't recall whether you said this was a truck, but if it is (or can be hacked into one), then put a cup holder in the truck bed, with a switch so your bot can tell whether there is a can of soda/beer there. Set it down in the kitchen with a can in its holder, and program it to go wander around the living room until it detects that the can has disappeared (i.e., one of your guests has grabbed it). Then have it scuttle back to the kitchen and wait for a reload. (You might have to pay your pre-teen to be the can reloader.)
This isn't trivial either, requiring some navigation, but it's not ridiculous either. Again, maybe a goal to shoot for.
HTH, - Joe
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That's a rather cool idea. Of course, I'd have to build a charging station and such, but that could be fun.

Yep, it's a truck. Although the can reloader could be a hurdle, as I don't have any spare pre-teens (they're all at work in the coal mines).
In all seriousness, these are both excellent ideas. I'll spend some time pondering them. Thanks Joe :)

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engfeh, sorry for the dual replyage, but I just had a thought: Those two ideas fit with each other perfectly. That is, building a robot that serves a drink, and then goes back to its charger, where it recieves another drink, and wanders back out.
Of course, this would be even less trivial (more nontrivial?)[1], but it also sounds like fun :)
[1] Grammer nazis fear my deadly gaze.
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Ian Kilgore wrote:

Remote control cars are not as easy to turn into robotics platforms as R/C vehicles that have differential steering, that is, one motor on each side. The big problem with the really low-cost cars is that the steering is not proportional. It pulls in one direction or the other, with a spring-loaded center. Accurate proportional steering is not easy, and most R/C cars don't do well here.
Take a look at some of the "hackable" R/C bases I've found and that I offer on my site -- you might be able to find something similar where you are:
http://www.budgetrobotics.com/shop/?shop=1&cat2&
What to look for:
1. Dual motors, rather than steering, unless the car is high-end with a high-resolution proportional steering mechanism. 2. Either the ability to take the motors and wheels out of the chassis (rare, because of the construction of most of these toys ), or easy removal of the body parts to use the chassis with your own added-decks. 3. Has a low-enough gear ratio that the control electronics you provide can keep up with it.
By comparison, the little Mini-knockoff (http://www.budgetrobotics.com/shop/?shop=1&cat6) is fun as a remote control car, but would make for a poor robot base. It's too fast, doesn't have proportional control, and if you take it apart everything inside just spring out at you!
-- Gordon
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