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Author Topic: Robotics for Beginners?  (Read 2393 times)

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Offline calvinizeTopic starter

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Robotics for Beginners?
« on: November 30, 2012, 09:26:23 AM »
Hello everyone,
I am currently a freshman in university, going to study Electronic and Communications Engineering.
I have an interest in robotics and would like to try to make a robot.
I've done some research on the web and are planning to buy a starter kit for making a robot.
I looked here http://www.junauza.com/2009/02/5-awesome-robot-kits-to-get-you-started.html , and I decided to get either one of them (Lego Mindstorms, VEXrobotics, qfix, BOE or Arduino)
I'm confused on which one I should take and so I decided to drop in to a Robotics forum (this site, yay) to ask the fellow veterans on which starter kit should I get.
I would like to ask you guys to recommend me which one is better?
(FYI: I am currently learning C++ and I have touched Microsoft Visual Basic before)

Thanks in advance.

P.S.:
I have the tendency to go with Arduino, as I have the ebooks guide for it and also I have heard that Arduino is really good, but I'm not quite sure.
Also, I'm not really sure about getting Vex and Mindstorms as they are so expensive!

Offline waltr

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2012, 10:37:42 AM »
The Arduino is very popular so there is lots of users and examples. This is just a Microcontroller board not a robot starter kit. You will need all the other parts to build a robot.

A very good start is build the $50 (may now cost ~ $80) robot. You can find the tutorial by clicking on "Robot Tutorials" at the top right of this screen. In there are also other tutorials and articles on each topic needed to build a robot. Good reading.
The $50 Robot project will get you started in a very hands-on manner so that you will learn the basic skills in which to later expand the project and/or later go with a Arduino.
Or you may want to get a Axon I or II board since these were design specially for robots.
The $50 robot uses the same family processor so the learned programming skills will transfer to either of these boards.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2012, 10:43:15 AM by waltr »

Offline calvinizeTopic starter

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2012, 11:50:25 AM »
Thank you very much for the quick reply!

I see. So this one is not considered a Starter Pack? http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoStarterKit
So, if Arduino is considered as a Microcontroller board, I'm wondering that is it almost the same as Xilinx BASYS board? (the one I am using in my university now)

Well, as a university student I have very limited money, and so I have to save up a lot in order to buy these robots things (I couldn't dig out money from my parents' pockets, as this is considered my personal hobby), that is why I'm thinking of buying a kit that can be used over and over again until at least I'm getting the hang of robotics.

So as a starter, you recommended me to first build the $50 robot first so that I can get a taste of robotics?
Then I can move on to the Axon I and Axon II?
What are those anyway? I have never heard of them before.
Care to elaborate?

Thank you very much.


EDIT: I've just read about Picaxe here http://letsmakerobots.com/node/33757
Which one is better, Arduino or Picaxe?
« Last Edit: November 30, 2012, 12:15:56 PM by calvinize »

Offline waltr

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2012, 02:29:02 PM »
That is an Arduino Starter Pack that contains lots of things for the Arduino board to measure and control. It has many items that could be used for a robot but not everything (it is not a robot starter kit).

The Axon is very much like the Arduino and is sold by the Admin of this forum. Search/look through these forums for more about both the Arduino and the Axon boards.

Avoid the PICAXE. It uses a built in interpreter that is slow and limited. It is designed as a very easy to program entry level board for younger people. At the college level you should go with a real programming language such as assembler or C for PIC or AVR (Arduino & Axon) processors.

The Xilinx BASYS board has an FPGA not a micro-controller (processor). Now one can place a processor core into an FPGA (with Verilog or VHDL code) but the basics are a bit different.
It sounds like you really need to do a bunch more reading about these devices.
Did you read all to info on the Arduino? Then download and skim the data sheet for the processor used on the Arduino?

Did you read any of the tutorials and articles in the "Robot Tutorial" page?

I understand your limited budget so am suggesting not to rush into buying something until your understand what it is you are buying.
Does your university have a robot or electronics club? If not maybe start one.
Or is there a professor that teaches micro-processors? Maybe he/she has some processor boards (maybe even an Arduino) that you could use to learn with. Ask the professor in the course where you use the Xilinx BASYS board. He/she should know.

Offline calvinizeTopic starter

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2012, 08:34:10 AM »
Oh okay. So what is the main difference between Arduino and Axon?

I'm one guy who is willing to learn, so I might not have a problem with the learning curve of something (especially as there are lots of tutorials in the internet to help me in case I got stuck)

Yes, I'm planning to do some robotics related readings during my semester break, and I'm planning to buy my Robotics Starter Kit at the start of the next semester (with the money I have been saving up this semester), so that I can try experimenting with it during the second semester.

I have read some of the articles and tutorials on robotics but certainly not all of them. There are too many of them and I find them quite overwhelming (there are also lots of articles in letsmakerobots.com), that is why I could not finish reading all the articles in a short period of time.

Yes. I understand. That is why I'm posting in this forum to ask others' opinions on what I should buy.

And yes, my university has a robotics club, but it is not very popular (unlike other university's robotics club), hence there are only a few people in it. And also, the seniors are quite shy (maybe because of language barrier? Because I'm an international student in my university, whilst they are locals), it is quite difficult to get information out of them.
The only thing I could figure out from them is that they used Solidworks to design their robots and MPLAB to program their boards, but still it isn't a useful piece of information  :-\

Yes, in my "Introduction to Electrical and Electronic Engineering" course, we are using the FPGA board to do some of the lab projects, but as those boards are only lend to us during the laboratory session, I could not have much time to experiment with it.
I have tried looking in the internet for a Xilinx BASYS board, but it is quite costly (around $60), so I don't think I'll get one myself.
I'm not sure though if my professor has an Arduino board..

Offline waltr

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2012, 11:07:30 AM »
I'm not familiar enough with the Arduinos and Axons to state all the differences.
They both use AVR processors and have all the support on the board to program and run.
One of the biggest differences may be the connectors for attaching other devices.

Quote
The only thing I could figure out from them is that they used Solidworks to design th
Solidworks is a 3D design program for mechanical parts (chassis, brackets, etc)
MPLAB is the IDE from Microchip for PIC processors. This means the Bot Club is using PICs and not AVRs for their robots.

I seems that the Arduino Starter Kit would be good for you. This isn't a Robot kit but you do need to learn about micro-controllers and this kit will do that. The Arduino board then can be later used for a robot.


Offline calvinizeTopic starter

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2012, 11:15:02 PM »
Yeah, because my school's robotics team is run by the Department of Mechanical Engineering, so it is more mechanical based rather than electronic based (that is why they focused more on the mechanical aspects of the robot, that is, wheels, motors, hinges, its base, etc)

I need to do more readings on PIC and AVR. Haha.
will certainly do that in my semester break (My exam will start soon. haha)

Oh I see, so an Arduino kit is basically consisted of only a modify-able board but without the mechanical parts of a robot?

What about the other choices btw? VEX? BOE? qfix?
Are they not popular? Or are difficult to learn?

Offline calvinizeTopic starter

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2012, 10:59:18 AM »
I think I will go with Arduino, as it seems that I'm more interested in the programming part rather than the mechanical part.
So even though the Arduino Starter Kit doesn't contain the parts that are required to build a robot, but I can still use the Arduino board to program a robot in the future right?

About the Axon thing, the only reason that I chose Arduino over Axon is that it seems that are more guides for Arduino rather than Axon, so it might be easier for me to learn Arduino (with an abundant of guides available in the internet)
Also Arduino seemed more popular than Axon, as I have heard Arduino lots of times in many different websites. While I haven't heard of Axon even once.

And for the sake of confirmation, I just saw my teacher today brought a machine with Arduino UNO board installed.
So it seems that my university is going to use Arduino in the later projects. (As this is the Introductory course, so we can only get our hands on the BASYS2 board, but I think in the more advanced courses, we will be dealing with different kinds of boards, one of which should be the Arduino board)

So. Final decision is, I'm going to get myself the Arduino Starter Kit for my Christmas gift (LOL my first electronic-related Christmas gift)
Do you have any input/objections/comments?

And thank you so much for replying! I really appreciate it!

Offline Gertlex

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2012, 01:02:14 PM »
I think you're making the right decision for your case.

The Axon is for robots, the Arduino is for... breadboards.  Thus, the Arduino is better suited for most 'makers', and thus it's going to be more widely used regardless of added effect of popularity.

In all likelihood, if you get addicted to the hobby, you'll end up with multiple MCU boards anyways :)

Have fun!...
I

Offline waltr

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2012, 07:33:14 PM »
Yep, the Arduino for you.
Also check at Adafruit and SparkFun for Arduino shields (boards that plug onto the Arduino ) and lots of other nifty sensors, gadgets, tutorials and ideas.

http://www.sparkfun.com/

http://www.adafruit.com/

Offline calvinizeTopic starter

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Re: Robotics for Beginners?
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2012, 01:49:40 AM »
I think you're making the right decision for your case.

The Axon is for robots, the Arduino is for... breadboards.  Thus, the Arduino is better suited for most 'makers', and thus it's going to be more widely used regardless of added effect of popularity.

In all likelihood, if you get addicted to the hobby, you'll end up with multiple MCU boards anyways :)

Have fun!...


I see. I think I'll learn the broader one first (Arduino), so that I'm not limited to robots only..
Thanks for the input :)


Yep, the Arduino for you.
Also check at Adafruit and SparkFun for Arduino shields (boards that plug onto the Arduino ) and lots of other nifty sensors, gadgets, tutorials and ideas.

http://www.sparkfun.com/

http://www.adafruit.com/


Great. I have checked out those websites before and they are sure very handy.
Thank you so much waltr for all your comments/inputs/suggestions/answers!
You are very helpful :)

I have asked the Arduino store on the stock of the Arduino Starter Kit, and I'm waiting for their reply now..
So excited! ;D

 


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