Hacking an RC Car

The Creeper Bot makes keeping an eye on your pet a breeze!

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Many times, the electronics project we think of as particularly cool or noteworthy are not very complex. It's not what technology you use in your project, but how you use it. The microcontrollers used in most projects are so much less technologically advanced than the guts of the average cell phone - but the projects you all are out there creating with 8-bit (or what have you) technology are still really cool! So...on to my point...

Radio controlled cars have been around for ages - nothing particularly mind-blowing about them at this point. But check out this project from SparkFun customer Dan Howery. He hacked an RC car and an Xbox 360 controller to create his "Creeper Bot" - an RC car outfitted with a controllable camera. The camera is linked to a screen where he can scope out what the car sees - and it's all piloted by the Xbox controller.

Dan does an awesome job documenting his build on his website and did a very clean, well-functioning hack. This is a great example of relatively simple project, done very well. Plus, Dan documents the project so well it is pretty much a tutorial for anyone looking to do a similar project. Awesome work!

Comments 11 comments

  • Member #223697 / about 12 years ago / 1

    Wow its excellent!
    Many features, super model and cool one to drive with.

    used cars

  • Z-Maus / about 13 years ago / 1

    I build something similar, with an Arduino Mega. I use a Nunchuk to control the jeep instead of the Xbox controller.
    It can also drive autonomously. Look here:

  • eel / about 13 years ago / 1

    Not only that, but he's not even using the original motor controller, so it?s not even a "hack" (he never purports it to be on his website). Maybe "Impressive Robotics Project" would have been a better title for this article.
    You bring up another good point: the easiest way to hack an RC car would be to replace the joysticks on the remote with analog outputs, similar to what was done here:
    But then you wouldn't be able to use any sensors.

  • chocobo_rider / about 13 years ago / 1

    Wait... he doesn't use the RC, so he's hacking a car (that it was a RC one is just a coincidence).

  • Jim19 / about 13 years ago / 1

    It's a great project, and not a million miles from what I'm working on: http://jimblackhurst.com/wiki/index.php/Autonomous_Ground_Vehicle

  • YellowFlower / about 13 years ago / 1

    Very impressive. However, if you can make a HUD on the screen giving you an indication of the camera position to the wheel base. Then i'd be speechless.

  • ScubaSonar / about 13 years ago / 1

    I'm making a similar kind of car using the FEZ boards you guys have with 900mhz zigbees. The FEZ domino is hooked up to 3 joysticks (two for driving, one for a grabber) and then the FEZ Panda runs the car. I just got it driving last night with the two joysticks(one for the left set of wheels, one for the right) so I'm pretty stoked! RC cars are great.

  • JohnnyBot1138 / about 13 years ago / 1

    This ROCKS!
    So many cool projects to try.... so little time.

  • Cyrusm / about 13 years ago / 1

    I think that RC cars (or really rc anything) makes a great platform for hacking, you start with a chassis, motors, most of the control circuitry already in place and then you just have to interface a few of your own components and bam. you have a sweet robot. some students at my university made something similar to this using a long range xbee module and gps tracking.

  • 12-1-50 / about 13 years ago / 1

    I made a similar project with the 434Mhz radio receiver/transmitter pair and some continuous rotation servos. Those modules are a little difficult to work with, but with a little tinkering they will do the trick. A project like this is great because there are so many more options to expand with it.

  • adel95 / about 13 years ago / 1

    What kind of posts do SparkFun fans love:
    1. The best thing on this section is when you post New Products combined whit a project that they are used for...
    2. It's nice when you just post New Products. We are happy to see them too.
    3. We also love when you post detailed SparkFun projects or tutorials.
    4. It's not so bad if you post projects that are well documented or have a lot of pictures and example videos...
    5. We don't like long posts that really don't contain something useful.
    Well... That was the TOP 5 of things that we like and don't like.... :)

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