Author Topic: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?  (Read 1766 times)

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Offline Photo resistorTopic starter

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Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« on: June 14, 2010, 02:41:10 PM »
Hi!
Hope somebody can help me here:
I'm am thinking of making my very first robot, but I'm not sure if i should either build my own microcontroller platform, or buy it...
Since its my first time I'm very inexperienced in this subject, but i have some knowledge in basic electronics and soldering skills, so I'm not totally noob :P

Thanks for all feedback!

Photo resistor

Offline random robots

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2010, 03:19:40 PM »
buy one, it will probably end out better for you and will stop lots of frustration from being caused. check out some and see what will suit you, like avrs and pics.
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Offline GWER57

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2010, 03:22:45 PM »
Since it is your first, I would reccomend the $50 dollar robot mcu or buying one. DO NOT DESIGN YOUR OWN ON YOUR VERY FIRST TRY!!! It is extremely painful. (Trust me, I know). ;D

I would reccommend the Arduino/Roboduino, Basic Stamp BOE, or if you have the ability (or want the challange!) you could try something like the Axon.

Good Luck! ;)
GTW

Offline SmAsH

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Offline Photo resistorTopic starter

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2010, 09:13:42 AM »
Thanks for your respons!
 I was kinda thinking of either buy an Axon since i have read and heard a lot of good stuff about it or make the one in the 50 dollar project. After i have read your replies i think i will try to follow the 50, hopefully to learn more about how its contructed.
Hope im taking the right decision :)

Photo resistor

Offline Soeren

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2010, 07:21:51 PM »
Hi,

I'm not sure if i should either build my own microcontroller platform, or buy it...
Since its my first time I'm very inexperienced in this subject
That sort of says it all...

I'd recommend that you buy a relatively simple board to start with and then gain some hardware experience by just making sensors and actuators for it.

If it's about the money, an Arduino clone can be had from India for cheap and there is ample examples, a crescendo of circuits and an huge user base, so you'll never be on your own.

If you choose to build it up yourself, you will pull your hair from time to time (while it's greying) and there's a genuine risk that it won't ever get to completion - don't take my word for it, search this and any other relevant forum and smell the despair of a noob with a controller circuit that just doesn't react.

With a ready made board, you have a much better chance of enjoying your entry to the 'bot world and the support circuits you need to build will be a better way of learning something - you don't really learn much from soldering up a controller (and a few other bits) to a piece of Vero board, as either it works or you fouled up somewhere.
With eg. a simple infrared obstacle detector, you have the opportunity to get a whiff of both analog and digital in a suitable small dose that it's possible to learn something.

However... Your mind, your money, your choice.
Regards,
Søren

A rather fast and fairly heavy robot with quite large wheels needs what? A lot of power?
Please remember...
Engineering is based on numbers - not adjectives

Offline Photo resistorTopic starter

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2010, 04:27:58 PM »
Again thanks for all your replies! I have chosen to buy an axon or an arduino, and not building my own. Mostly because of all the features and possibilities with a ready built MCU (and the chance i fail building one myself.)

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Offline SmAsH

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2010, 01:41:28 AM »
If you are considering arduino, be sure to check out roboduino. It's much better if you are going to be using sensors and servos.
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Offline Ro-Bot-X

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2010, 05:22:10 AM »
Roboduino is a very nice board (I am using one), and for simple robots is great. But when you want to expand and use some Arduino shields like a color display, or Xbee shield, or whatever besides your sensors and servos, you are better off with other Arduino variants, because Roboduino lacks a row of female pins placed exactly where original Arduino boards have. There are newer boards for robotics that use this feature and still have 3pin headers for servos and sensors and even a dual H-bridge on board, like Romeo All-in-one Arduino.
Check out the uBotino robot controller!

Offline vinito

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2010, 03:35:11 PM »
If you were me, you'd just get an Arduino to start with.
I don't want to interfere with the propagation of the Axon. It's obviously a very nice product. But when you're just starting down this path, it's a good idea to keep things simple. Also might as well keep it inexpensive too. If down the road you become really good with micros and build all sorts of stuff, you'll still be able to think up several uses for your old Arduino. But at this stage of the game, the complexity of a step-up board may be enough to slow down progress.

Arduino is about $20. Pretty cheap tuition into a subject that can provide months of learning. If it fizzles, you're out $20 or can sell or donate to someone else who, if interested in the first place, probably has heard of Arduino many times too and possibly has never heard of the Axon yet.

Anyway, my point is there is a lot you can do with an Arduino. Learn what you can and when you begin to learn enough to push its limits, you'll have a pretty good idea what board you want to step up to. Once you have an Arduino in hand, you might start picking up a shield for it now and then, and you'll know what you want pretty well by then. After you have a few simple successful projects under your belt, you'll be dreaming up things of your own creation you want to do. By this time, you'll know if you're starting to outgrow your Arduino and also have an idea what board you want to get into next.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2010, 03:36:38 PM by vinito »

Offline Photo resistorTopic starter

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2010, 05:59:03 PM »
Thanks dude for a great answear! An arduino sound good for me, now i must just learn how its built up (basic) and get familiar with how to program it  ;) You guys have been really helpful and i appreciate that!

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Offline SmAsH

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2010, 06:07:03 PM »
Download the arduino software and take a look at some of the code examples to see how some code looks.
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Offline vinito

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2010, 01:23:18 AM »
Start here:
Arduino Home Page
The Arduino Playground link there is pretty fun to check out too.

A couple basic sources:
Spark Fun Arduino stuff
and
Adafruit Industries
(which seems to me to be less of an industry but more the brainchild entrepreneurial success of a splendidly geeky girl from MIT - some cool stuff there to be sure)

There are a ton of sources for Arduino on the net though, so I encourage you to google before buying.
You can even try eBay, where an Arduino can be had for around $10 I think.

The best "tutorial" projects resource I've found is in PDF book form which is here (click)
And the code used in that book is here (click)
It's really good. Check it out.

BTW, it came from this place (click)
(under "arduino compatible projects" and "starter kits")
The "starter kit" they sell might be useful too but it's pretty much just standard electronics/robotics components which you may already have. Seems kind of pricey to me, but it's all there to follow along with the projects in the book - maybe worth it for the convenience?
They provide a nice pictorial list of what is in the kit so you can look that over to see what you need to follow along with the book.

Well that ought to get you going. My recommendations are just one guy's perspective. There are a lot of other resources out there too.

p.s. The standard, typical place folks start with Arduino isn't quite a "robot", but are a progression of projects which show you how to hook things up and code for a microcontroller. Everything you learn by going through those projects is applicable to whatever robot you want to build. I mention this because if you're chomping at the bit to get a robot rolling around your living room, this will seem like a step backward. It's not. It's simply the first steps toward wrapping your head around a robot controller. You can make a robot without a microcontroller (and I think the $50 robot from this site starts with something like that IIRC). But to me that is kind of a tangent since, at least for what I want to do with robotics and automation, the microcontroller is the core around which I wrap the rest of what I like to do with it. Anyways, trying to remain in step with the idea of keeping things simple and linear, I believe that starting by learning how to use the microcontroller correctly is a good way to go. Making a robot using discrete components (i.e. no microcontroller) seems to me like an interesting project for later exploration - if there is interest and time to fiddle with it.

So in summary:
Look at some sources and order up an Arduino board.
Any time between this second and retirement, feel free to browse the Arduino home page linked above. Lots of useful info there to edify your inner geek.
Download and read through the tutorial manual linked above. Maybe buy the components you need to get through the first few (or all) of the projects in the book from the source of your choice.
Work through the tutorial projects and maybe some others (Adafruit has some good tutorials too - here (click))
   If you're really jazzed up about it, the tutorials will probably only take a week or two to rip through. Try to make sure you have a solid understanding of every little tidbit though, since most everything after this will just build on it.
After that, you should have a pretty good idea where to turn next, and you'll have some micro kung-fu under your belt to work with.

Rotsa ruck.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2010, 01:54:30 AM by vinito »

Offline Photo resistorTopic starter

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Re: Build or buy a microcontroller platform?
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2010, 06:25:09 PM »
Many nice and usefull links :)
I am gonna order a pack consisting of (the arduino + protoshield which i must solder + a bunch of other good stuff that may be good to use.)
I am planning to order 2 hitec HS-325 servos later, when i am skilled enough to make a robot out it :)

Photo resistor

 


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