I was playing the old "confuse the cat with a flash-light" game, when I thought that I might like to program a confuse-a-cat robot.

Something, probably with tracks, which can right itself if he flips it over, and which I can program to move randomly around a room, turning at walls, making an occasional sound or flashing a light.

Since I am on a very tight budget, I wondered if there is some cheap kit which I can program ...

Arduino, Raspberry Pi, any platform, so long as it is programmable.

Thanks in advance for your help

  • $\begingroup$ You may be able to use this service. $\endgroup$
    – Shahbaz
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 15:17

5 Answers 5


You haven't define what's the limit of your budget.

However, for cheap programmable robots you can use: the DFRobot 2WD Mobile Platform and interface it with an Arduino Uno. You can also use a Pololu 3pi Robot or even a PICAXE Microbot which is already equiped with a front bumper

Look a this for more kits: 47 Programmable Robotic Kits

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the info, @Horse-man +1 My limit is elastic, but low. I will know the "hurt point" when I reach it, but even $100 is out of the question. I am not even sure if there is anythign that I can afford. I will check out your recommendations & get back to you. $\endgroup$
    – Mawg
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 18:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If it still expensive: you can recycle an old toy and interface it with an arduino, but I really recommand a kit, it's more robust and easier $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 19:35

Did you say dirt? May I recommend a Roomba?

  • It has wheels and tracks.
  • A cat wouldn't be able to flip it over.
  • It already knows how to move randomly around a room, turning at walls.
  • It already makes sounds and has some LEDs. You should be able to hack how they behave.

Some cats like Roombas. Others are highly indifferent to them.

Bonus: it can pick up cat hair.

  • $\begingroup$ Ha ha ha - not only informative, but witty too. And an interesting alternative. I will give it serious thought. $\endgroup$
    – Mawg
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 20:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Upvoted because of the bonus part :-) $\endgroup$
    – Ruby
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 21:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The only problem with Roomba is: the price! I think @Mawg said clearly "I am on a very tight budget" $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 1:11

Dirty cheap robot:

Try seeking in Aliexpress/Ebay/your local e-store something called 2WD robot chassis. For about ~14-16 usd you will get two wheels and two engines and quite good basic platform for further development.

Then you will have to add:

  • Arduino or clone (cheaper) ~8-9 usd
  • Driver shield or H-bridge (H bridge or transistors are much cheaper but you will have to learn how to use them. It's not wasted time if you want to pursue robotics hobby) ~6-7usd for cheapest
  • Ultrasonic sensor 2 usd
  • 6x battery holder 1 usd
  • Breadboard and dupont cables (jumpers) 6 usd

You will get complete kit for ~40 usd total. If you will add about 20 usd for arduino kit that will be more than enough to start.

Start here and search for suitable elements http://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?SearchText=arduino&catId=&initiative_id=SB_20140925122631


As another person said, you can buy cheap basic motorised platforms from such Chinese sites.

I use banggood.com myself and get loads of stuff from there; H-bridges, ESCs, motors, components, sensors, bench power supplies, oscilloscopes etc. basically anything except batteries which are a problem here since we live in Europe and there are a lot of safety standards.

For instance here is a motor and wheel assembly for 3 dollars: http://www.banggood.com/Robot-Smart-Car-Wheel-Deceleration-DC-Motor-For-Arduino-Smart-Car-p-907973.html?currency=USD

And here is a whole kit for 10 dollars. http://www.banggood.com/Smart-Robot-Car-Chassis-Kit-Speed-Encoder-Battery-Box-For-Arduino-p-915324.html

As for reliability, I can confirm that everything I order arrives safely and payment can be made through paypal so is pretty much safe also. The only catch is the basic delivery period (free shipping!) takes up to 27 days. Some items offer expedited shipping for a charge and that gets a bit weird because sometimes it is just a couple of dollars and the item arrives in a few days.

Mind you I would not trust my life to anything sourced from such places because quality is not always the best (for instance an imitation Arduino may have some parts not perfectly aligned), but for fun stuff its great.

So I would highly recommend it. Hope that helps!

By the way if you want to make it more fun you might want to incorporate a laser (make sure it points downwards just ahead of the vehicle. In that way the cat will tend to spring at the spot rather than the vehicle!) if you want to do this for free, get an old DVD drive (not CD) and dismantle it to get the 3 lead diode.

Say hi to your cat for me. :-)

  • $\begingroup$ *1 for saying "hi" to my cat ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Mawg
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 6:27

Just gonna add one here as I researched this topic thoroughly. The best one I found so far is the fully functioning AERobot: 20$ without shipping and programmable:


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the recommendation... perhaps you could expand, to explain your reasoning? $\endgroup$
    – Andrew
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ Basically its pretty tough to get robots under 50$, the robots used in research and education are mostly far beyond 100$. There are two alternatives afaik that you get under 50$: 1) The robots from the 2014 competition from AFRON of which the AERobot is the only one available for shipping. 2) Building your own, which is a pain in the ass as many parts mostly ship only in large quantities at a good price. - Still, there is a new project in Germany called Calliope which robot costs around ~35, although not wheeled. $\endgroup$
    – Anton_C
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 14:20

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