Open source hardware platforms for robotics


In robotics development, the burgeoning “maker” and “do-it-yourself” (DIY) culture has gained significant traction. A fundamental aspect of this approach involves the assembly of robots using readily available mechanical structures and electronic components.

These components can be acquired from the market, crafted using 3D printing technology, or repurposed from recycled materials. Among these components, the control unit, often called the microcontroller, serves as the central “brain” of the robot, dictating its functionality and compatibility with other peripherals such as sensors, actuators, and power sources.

In exploring open-source hardware platforms, we explore some prominent options available today.


Originating from Italy, Arduino stands out as a frontrunner in open-source microcontrollers. The Arduino ecosystem offers a range of low-cost, single-board microcontrollers designed to create digital devices and interactive objects. These boards are available in preassembled form, as DIY kits or individual components, providing flexibility to users of varying skill levels.

Key to Arduino’s appeal is its user-friendly integrated development environment (IDE), which facilitates programming and customization. Additionally, Arduino has expanded its focus on education by introducing Arduino Education. This initiative aims to empower educators and students in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) by providing tailored resources and support.


  • Easy to use: Beginner-friendly with a large and supportive community.
  • Versatile: Wide range of compatible sensors and actuators for various projects.
  • Affordable: A relatively inexpensive platform to get started.


  • Limited processing power: Not ideal for complex robotics applications requiring heavy computation.
  • Limited memory: This can be limiting when storing large programs or datasets.
  • Not ideal for real-time control: It may not be suitable for robots requiring fast and precise movements.


Hailing from China, Elegoo is another prominent player dedicated to open-source hardware research and development. Elegoo’s kits and components are renowned for their seamless compatibility with the Arduino platform, offering users many options to bring their robotics projects to life.


  • Arduino-compatible: Works with Arduino IDE and many Arduino libraries.
  • Cost-effective: Often offers starter kits with various components at competitive prices.
  • Variety of options: Provides different board options catering to various skill levels.


  • Brand-specific: Some components might be specific to Elegoo and not universally compatible.
  • Learning curve: While Arduino-compatible, there might be slight variations in functionality compared to standard Arduino.

Makey Makey

Makey offers a unique twist to the robotics landscape by enabling users to transform everyday objects into interactive inputs for their computers. This innovative device capitalizes on electrical conductivity, allowing users to connect objects like fruits, vegetables, or coins to their computers via a simple circuit board. By replacing conventional keyboard inputs, Makey Makey opens avenues for creative exploration and experimentation, particularly in educational settings.


  • Unique concept: Turns everyday objects into touch controllers, fostering creativity.
  • Easy to use: A simple setup allows quick experimentation and prototyping.
  • Engaging for beginners: Makes learning about electronics and programming interactive and fun.


  • Limited functionality: Not ideal for complex robotics projects.
  • Educational focus: Primarily designed for educational purposes and not robust for serious robotics applications.
  • Limited control: Offers basic input capabilities and may not be suitable for precise control tasks.


Introduced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in collaboration with multiple partners, Micro:bit represents a compact yet powerful open-source hardware platform that fosters student electronics experimentation. Equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, an accelerometer, and a compass, Micro:bit devices offer students a hands-on approach to learning electronics and coding.


  • Educational focus: Designed for learning, with built-in sensors and a beginner-friendly interface.
  • Portable: Compact size makes it convenient for on-the-go projects.
  • Visual programming: Offers drag-and-drop programming options for easy learning.


  • Limited processing power: Similar to Arduino, it may not be suitable for computationally intensive robotics tasks.
  • Limited connectivity: Fewer built-in communication options compared to other platforms.
  • Simpler projects: More suited for educational projects rather than complex robots.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi, a British innovation, revolutionizes the computing and robotics education landscape. As an affordable yet versatile computer, Raspberry Pi empowers enthusiasts to delve into programming, basic electronics, and robotics. With its customizable operating system and support for programming languages like Scratch and Python, Raspberry Pi serves as a gateway for individuals to unleash their creativity and explore the realms of robotics.


  • Powerful processor: Capable of handling complex robotics applications requiring heavy computation.
  • Versatility: A full Linux operating system runs, allowing for extensive software options and development tools.
  • High connectivity: Offers various communication options like WiFi, Bluetooth, and USB.


  • Steeper learning curve: Requires more programming knowledge compared to Arduino.
  • Cost: It can be more expensive than Arduino boards, especially with additional components.
  • Power consumption may require a more powerful power supply than simpler boards.

In conclusion, the availability of open-source hardware platforms has democratized access to robotics technology, fostering innovation and creativity among enthusiasts, students, and educators alike. Whether it’s Arduino’s user-friendly interface, Elegoo’s compatibility, Makey Makey’s creativity, Micro:bit’s educational focus, or Raspberry Pi’s versatility, each platform offers unique opportunities for individuals to embark on their robotics journey.