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Author Topic: Beginner looking for advice  (Read 804 times)

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Offline ErikYTopic starter

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Beginner looking for advice
« on: January 29, 2012, 06:47:48 AM »
First off, I just want to say thanks so much for all the amazing information on this site! Truly incredible!

OK, so I am looking for some advice on getting started.

Here is a very brief background, I am a mathematician by education, and a software engineer/architect by career. I have zero electronics background other than what I have learned from reading the tutorials ont this site.

I have zero computer hardware understanding, and as sad as it is, I truly don't understand how computers work at their core, as I am young enough to have started software development in a time where you did not need to understand that to be a software engineer.

I also have zero mechanical understanding.

I do have a lot of building experience between wood working and metal working.

OK, so I am completely fascinated with what I have been reading, I have read every tutorial I could find 2 times, I have a bit of information overload going on.

I want to build robots, this I know for sure! I want to understand things at a very detailed level. I want to be able to build my own microcontrollers, write my own code, build my own robots, etc.

I have ordered all the parts for the $50 robot.


So, now what do I do?

Do I build the $50 robot and go from there?

Do I learn electrical engineering?

Do I learn how computing systems work?

I am really a bit overwhelmed with all that I feel I need to learn, and I am not quite sure, do I jump in and build and try to learn as I go, or do I learn more background info first?

Sorry for such a long winded post, and any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Offline newInRobotics

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Re: Beginner looking for advice
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2012, 08:58:30 AM »
Do I build the $50 robot and go from there?
Why not, it is really good starting point. It is fairly easy as well, but don't take me wrong, as first project in the area it will be challenging, plus latter on, You will be able to expand it and improve it in many different ways.

Do I learn electrical engineering?
As with everything, You have to start small. You cannot just learn electrical engineering as it involves gaining a lot of experience in order to be good at it, however, You can learn basics by following tutorials as the one mentioned above.

Do I learn how computing systems work?
That might help, but also, don't try to put everything to Your brain at once, as it will become boring. If I were You, I'd just go along with small projects/tutorials and knowledge will come along.

I am really a bit overwhelmed with all that I feel I need to learn, and I am not quite sure, do I jump in and build and try to learn as I go, or do I learn more background info first?
In my opinion You should go along with building something as that will become Your milestone, so You if You don't have certain knowledge now, You will obtain it as You go towards the end of Your milestone. Motivation to complete the project will make learning easy and you will not even notice boring process of it.

Good luck  ;)
"Computer games don't affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music." - Kristian W

Offline ChrisMcC

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Re: Beginner looking for advice
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2012, 09:34:17 AM »
I'd agree that starting with the $50 robot is a good way to go.  I was in the same situation, with only very minimal exposure to C programming to work with.  My son and I worked on the robot but changed it to an object avoiding robot by replacing the photoresistors with an ultrasound sensor.  Works great!

The good thing was that with the tutorial, all that was necessary was to change the sensors and amend the program a bit.  By the time we were done, I'd become much more familiar with electronics and circuits, and felt that I could move on to another project.  That robot is still a constant reference source.

Necessity being the mother of invention means, in this case,that when you start on the project you expand your knowledge as you need to to get the project  completed.

Anyway, good luck with it, and have fun!

Chris

Offline ErikYTopic starter

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Re: Beginner looking for advice
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2012, 12:24:44 PM »
Guys,
Thanks for the advice.

I definitely plan on building the 50 dollar robot. I guess my concern was when reading the tutorial on it, I have no idea why I will be doing a lot of it, and I am wondering if I need more understanding, or if that is normal and the best way to learn.

Offline newInRobotics

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Re: Beginner looking for advice
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2012, 02:09:16 PM »
I definitely plan on building the 50 dollar robot. I guess my concern was when reading the tutorial on it, I have no idea why I will be doing a lot of it, and I am wondering if I need more understanding, or if that is normal and the best way to learn.
Well, You can use different approach and try to go with something like getting microcontroller and making simple LED flasher program for it, that way You will learn why microcontroller is setup that way and why certain code is written for all LED flashing to work. Using this approach is fine, that's how I have started, however, many people want to do something more complex without realising what it involves, they try and fail, then get discouraged and just drop it, for this reason, Admin wrote $50 Robot tutorial as the end result is something "more complex" and people like the idea of it. You see, it is not possible to just jump into technology without understanding on what it is based and how all that works, so it's either You learn it Yourself, or let someone else do the hard work and join in only for the easy part after all thinking is done for You. If You decide to go with $50  robot You can always use same parts to analyse why certain code or wires go in a certain way, so don't worry - as long as You are keen, You'll get there in the end  :)
"Computer games don't affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music." - Kristian W

Offline charlie_ehler

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Re: Beginner looking for advice
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2012, 03:32:34 PM »
Hi Erik!

I'm a little like you, software engineer by trade.  I started out in the military and so virtually all my education is hands on.  I must be a bit older than you since I'm quite familiar with assembler, COBOL and Fortran in addition to the newer stuff.

From my perspective the $50 robot project is a nice mix of complex and simple so I chose that route.  It's a basic mix of the three disciplines with the least of the problems for someone like you or I being the programming.

Looking over the micro-controller board it breaks down into just the micro-controller, the programming interface, sensor interface, servo interface and power supply circuitry. If you look at it this way it becomes far less intimidating.

The robot itself is not very involved either once you learn that the servos are the only way the robot interacts with the world and the sensors provide the input for it to act on.  The rest is simple fabrication and assembly.  I'm looking forward to finishing mine(just as soon as I have a decent soldering iron to work with).

I stumbled upon the Engineer's Mini-Notebook series by Forrest M. Mims III and that is a great way to fire-hose the electronics principles and get a few basic projects to help understand it all.  So, for well under a hundred Dollars you can get enough electronics info and ideas for learning projects to make yourself pretty dangerous.

Later!
Charlie

Offline Webbot

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Re: Beginner looking for advice
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2012, 07:34:53 PM »
Its kinda dated - but here are some handy assembly hints for your first bot ($50 or otherwise). Hope it helps. http://www.societyofrobots.com/member_tutorials/node/193
Webbot Home: http://webbot.org.uk/
WebbotLib online docs: http://webbot.org.uk/WebbotLibDocs
If your in the neighbourhood: http://www.hovinghamspa.co.uk

Offline ErikYTopic starter

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Re: Beginner looking for advice
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2012, 02:12:12 PM »
Everyone, thanks for the advice and the tips! Much appreciated.

I have ordered all the parts to make the $50 robot, I am going to build it, and really try to understand every detail and why it is being done.

At the same time I have been reading a book on electronics. I am learning what resisters and capacitors do, ohms law, etc. I am hoping that will help me.


I am tempted to buy the Axon II augmented microcontroller, it looks awesome. The thing is I have this stubborn nature to me that says I don't want to buy it until I have a better understanding of how to build my own.

Offline newInRobotics

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Re: Beginner looking for advice
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2012, 04:06:13 PM »
I am tempted to buy the Axon II augmented microcontroller, it looks awesome. The thing is I have this stubborn nature to me that says I don't want to buy it until I have a better understanding of how to build my own.
Well done, I'm happy that there still are people like You!  :)
"Computer games don't affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music." - Kristian W

Offline ErikYTopic starter

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Re: Beginner looking for advice
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2012, 05:06:14 AM »
haha! Thx, time will tell! All I know is I am damn excited as parts have begun to come in the mail!

I can't wait to build this thing!!

 


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