In our SunFounder Smart Video Car Kit V2.0 PiCar-V Robot Kit Review, we’ll break down this kit’s following metrics:
- Ease of Setup: How long does it take to “use” the kit out of the box?
- Instructions & Support: How easy is it to complete the kit, and if problems arise how easy is it get help?
- Educational Value: How much can you learn from completion of this kit?
- Fun & Engaging: Is the kit fun and engaging to use?
The SunFounder Smart Video Car Kit V2.0 PiCar-V Robot Kit is a great robotic kit aimed at high school student level learners. The kit itself is more of an electrical & plastic car harness for a raspberry pi, which is used to control the car. The PiCar-V version comes with a usb wide angle webcam which can be used to drive the car remotely or using image processing algorithms. It is important to note that it does not come with the raspberry pi needed to make it work or batteries. It comes with the motors & plates needed to build the car, along with ribbon cables you attach to the raspberry pi to control the motors. Since it is based on a raspberry pi, you can always reuse the raspberry pi in other projects after you are done. I will note the University of California, San Diego intro to robotics course uses this kit as a learning platform, a testament to its reliability and educational value. This kit offers a code block editor or python modules to interact with motors provided for you, with the usb web cam allowing for image processing in python. This lets you make either a closed loop or open loop control system to drive the car around. The car does assume a degree of technical skills, such as setting up the raspberry pi with using a micro sd card, understanding how to connect (ssh) into the raspberry pi once it is running on the smart car, and understanding how read and use existing code to program your own logic. This makes the kit fairly advanced to use but rewarding as it lets you write code to control the smart car, and is great as an advanced introduction to robotics.
Ease of Setup
The PiCar arrives disassembled, and requires approximately 3 hours to assemble (tools are provided). Note you must purchase your own batteries, Raspberry pi, micro sd card, & micro sd card writer which is an added cost into this setup.
Instructions & Support
While it has code block editor, this kit is not recommended for beginners as it is intended to be controlled using the provided python modules to control the motors. You programmatically drive the car by using motors to adjust speed of rear wheels, and the angle at which the front wheels are turned (either left or right +- ~45 degrees).
There is no official guided lesson plans with this robot, it is more for hands on tinkering. There are some tutorials available on the sunfounder website.
Since Sunfounder is based in China, it is not ideal for North American based customer support, and you will likely need to leverage third party forums if you encounter issues.
The smart car serves as a platform with a lot of self driven learning opportunities. The usb camera enables advanced computer vision processing of the RGB camera images onboard the raspberry pi using opencv and python. This pairs well with placing QR codes around your home and having the robot automatically travel between the codes. You could also implement a color tracker using the position of colors in the image to guide which direction the car drives. In addition to the camera, since the kit uses a Raspberry Pi, multiple external sensors can be added in the future to build your own “autonomous” self driving car. While the kit is largely self driven independent learning, setting up and getting running is its own challenge that will require knowledge of computers with a lot of learning lessons. From python programming, to reading code provided by the manufacturer, to flashing a Linux image on the raspberry pi, to connecting to the raspberry pi without a graphical interface using a terminal and ssh, this kit is made for the advanced learner with plenty of learning opportunities.
Fun & Engagement
Once setup, you can drive this car around via mouse and keyboard or phone app manually, or through a program you write to control the motors and steering. Since its based on a car system, the kit offers a lot of fun in driving the car around your floor. As you are able to see the changes in software you right change the behavior of the car in the real world, a physical platform such as the smart car is a perfect fun and engaging robotic kit.
Which batteries does the Sunfounder PiCar use?
The Sunfounder PiCar uses rechargeable lithium ion 3.7V 18650 sized batteries to power the onboard Raspberry Pi and motors.
What do I need to get a Sunfounder PiCar running?
You will want to purchase the following additional products to use a Sunfounder PiCar kit:
- 18650 Rechargeable Battery Charger: A rechargeable battery charger is a must for endless hours of driving your PiCar around.
- 18650 3.7V Rechargable Batteries: Since the PiCar does not come with batteries, you will need to buy your own.
- Raspberry Pi: This kit is designed to be compatible with the Raspberry Pi 3, released when it was initially released.
- Micro SD Card: To hold the operating system for the Raspberry Pi.
- Micro SD Card USB adapter: To flash the SD card with the operating system for the Raspberry Pi.
Overall at Teach Kids Robotics we highly recommend the Sunfounder PiCar-V robot kit for advanced high schoolers and independent learners looking to tinker with their own robotic platform and teach themselves robotic principles.