WrightStuffMonster wrote:I am pretty sure that you can get a everything you need to program an Atmel including the chip for around 15-20 bucks if you shop around. Sparkfun sells everything that you need to get started for somewhere around that. That is a weeks worth of coffees for your average teenager. If you can not afford you spend 15 for a micro you probably have some fairly serious issues with your ev. I would love to see that off the shelf software that allows ev to be a plug in and play affair. I have never seen anything like it. Thanks fleet for dealing fighting to keep micros in. That was by far the most educational part of the event was learning how to program micros well enough to make the ev go.
This is true, but remember that you do need an optical encoder to interface the vehicle with the microcontroller, and a good encoder is not cheap. However, the Vex robotics franchise (I think I'll call it that from now on) sells reasonably good encoders, and you can get $400 industrial precision encoders used from eBay for under $20, which is what I did.
You also need some way of driving motors with the micro. This can be had for a few cents in MOSFETs, or could run up more than $50 if you buy a dedicated motor controller. I feel that modifying a $20 servo to continuously rotate (Google "continuous servo" for tutorials) is the best tradeoff in price vs. performance. That $20 will buy a self-enclosed, relatively tough gearbox and motor, with its own internal motor driver that can provide simple but precise speed adjustments, as well as braking.
Finally, throw in about 50 hours of programming, and twice as much time testing, and you might have a winning vehicle. My EV last year was pretty minimal, compared to the stuff I listed here. A lot of the stuff was surplus or free samples. Spending lots of money will save time, but spending money will not help you win.
Anyways, I usually justify my SO expenses to my parents by reminding them that I don't have a cell phone or video game console, and I haven't gone to the mall in years. Those are teenager stuff, right?