Introducing Wheelbot
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Sunday, 31 July 2022

The Wheelbot is a jumping reaction wheel unicycle that can jump onto its wheels from any initial position. It's fun to watch and has  a GitHub repo detailing how you can to build one using off-the-shelf-components and 3D printed parts.

Wheelbot comes from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart and RWTH Aachen University. It is an agile autonomous robot intended as a testbed for model-predictive control algorithms running on naturally unstable systems.


A paper detailing Wheelbot’s mechanical and electrical design, its estimation and control algorithms, as well as initial experiments for demonstrating both self-erection and disturbance rejection while balancing will be published in the October issue of IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters and presented that month at IROS 2022 in Kyoto, Japan. 

This video gives the same details and highlights its symmetric design with its rolling wheel and reaction wheel being are identical. This means both wheels can either act as rolling wheel or reaction wheel. The video shows how Wheelbot can withstand lateral and longitudinal pushes and can balance on a titled plane and also demonstrates how it can self-erect from any initial position by using its rolling wheel, referred to as a "roll-up, or by using its reaction wheel, referred to as a "stand-up".

As explained in the video, the wheelbot was developers as a small, affordable and low-dimensional system that provides a practical testbed for research on non-linear and data-driven control algorithms.

The video concludes:

With its interesting dynamics and relatively simple design, we hope that this robot also  finds its application in the education of students interested in robotics and control systems.

To further this aim the project is open-sourced under the GNU General Public Licence. Its repo contains CAD files and technical drawings for 3D printing the parts required, circuit layouts of the motherboards, matlab files and simulation models as well as the firmware required to run Wheelbot 2.5. According to its website, Wheelbot 2.5 requires an outlay of 600 €, broken down as follows: 

  • 2 x Antigravity T-motors MN6007 Kv160, 120€
  • 2 x Encoder , 40€
  • 1 x uDriver v.2, 100€
  • 4 x IMUs, 15€
  • 1 x motherboard + Maevarm M2 + Rf module, 50€
  • 50 € for 3D printed parts, cables, laser cut copper rings




More Information

Wheelbot project page

Wheelbot v 2.5 on GitHub

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 31 July 2022 )