I have about two months to build a free standing robot that sits in a 30x30 box. Additional rules are here: http://scioly.org/wiki/index.php/Robot_Arm
Now I would like to take this as an opportunity to really get involved in robotics, so I am going to take this seriously. I don't want to use any full out kits, and I want to get my hands dirty.
As far as what I am working with, my budget is probably in the mid 3 digit range, nothing too expensive. I have a lot of experience with building/mechanical engineering and I am very familiar with programming. I know Java extremely well and I can get around in C++. I am also willing to let this be a learning experience.
I am not sure where to start though. The robot doesn't have to be remote controlled and it can be totally programmed. The goal is to pick up various items and put them in buckets, so a programmed robot could work. I could also do both.
I have looked at Arduino and some microprocessors. This is really new to me though! I don't want to blindly get parts and completely screw myself over.
So any suggestions?