Hardware for Netbook-Based Solutions

Mobility Platforms

Using a little velcro, it is possible to mount a netbook on just about any mobility platform. The platform just needs to be large enough to support the netbook, and it needs to have motors strong enough to handle the few pounds that it weighs. We have used two products in our designs:

DFRobot 4WD
A wheeled platform designed for small robotics projects. Fairly cheap, but requires more assembly than desired, including some soldering.
Hobby tank
A remote-controlled tracked platform designed for hobbyists. It is more expensive, but is extremely easy to work with. It is also more robust and provides superior maneuverability.

Motor Controllers

The netbook solutions ride on larger platforms than the smaller devices. To drive the larger motors on these platforms doesn't require a lot of power, but it does require enough that some care must be taken in selecting motor controllers that can supply enough power. We have had success with two motor controllers on these platforms.

Phidgets High Current Motor Controller
A fairly expensive motor controller designed for applications much larger than ours. However, it comes with easy to use libraries and supports Phidgets digital sensor devices. Note that the low current controller produced by Phidgets did not perform well on our platforms.
Romeo All-in-one Motor Controller
An Arduino-compatible motor/servo controller, which can be purchased in a package with the DFRobot. There are many options for additional peripherals, including an optional blue-tooth adaptor. Although only slightly more powerful than the low current motor controller from Phidgets, it performs well on our platforms.