Thank you for the info. I learned a lot already - the motors are being driven directly from the motors
to the motor shield and the ribbon cable connector is bypassed. At least for now this solves connecting through the ribbon cable connector.
I am looking at a part from pololu http://www.pololu.com/catalog/product/2130
drv8833 that claims to
"deliver 1.2 A per channel continuously (2 A peak) to a pair of DC motors. With an operating voltage range from 2.7 to 10.8 V" it only costs $7 and would suffice for one motor rotating the base. Do you think it a better idea than 3) An Adafruit Motor Shield ($19.50) ? I will have to drive all 5 motors eventually - the instructable says the motor shield only drives 4 motors.
Is this an acceptable choice for the gyro?
1 L3GD20 3-axis gyro will give you the angular motion measurements: https://www.adafruit.com/products/1032
Is this an acceptable choice for the microcontroller - does it include future wireless compatibility?
can handle 3 to 4 input sensors (2 or 3 gyros and a pressure sensor to close gripper) and 5 motor control signals output?
1 Arduino Mega would be a good microcontroller to use. https://www.adafruit.com/products/191
Arduino Mega 2560 R3 (Atmega2560 - assembled) - Mega! do the XBee radios just plug in?
Is this enough to get me started - gyro, mega, drv8833? do I need any battery power supplies to power the arduino?
do you also recommend:
Premium Female/Female Jumper Wires - 40 x 6" - $6.95 https://www.adafruit.com/products/266
Extra-long break-away 0.1" 16-pin strip male header (5 pieces) - $3http://www.adafruit.com/products/400
6) Some jumper wires ($6) and pin headers ($7.50)