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Help building my first robot!

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DomoArigato:
Iím new to robotics and was hoping someone could help me choose the parts for my first robot.  My challenge is I only know basic electronics, enough to decipher generally what a simple circuit is doing and thatís about it.  My goal is to start with a simple mobile robot based off of a PIC MCU with maybe a sensor or two.  Iím good with C and Iím familiar with programming assembly and machine code, but Iíve never used an MCU before. Hereís what Iím thinking:

-Build a power regulation circuit straight off the SR site.
-9.6 volt battery pack
-Hacked RC car with Ackerman steering
  (itís got a dc motor and some sort of left/right electromagnet for the front wheels)
-Solarbotics L293D Motor Driver
  http://www.solarbotics.com
-PIC16F877A Proto Board from CCS
  http://www.ccsinfo.com/product_info.php?products_id=16F877Amp
-Front and rear touch sensors

Then:
-CCS Command Line Pic Compiler
-ICD-U40 In Circut Debugger

I really don't know if I'm getting the right microcontroller, compiler, or programmer/debugger.  I like the idea of a proto board, but I don't want to pay 40$ for every robot I build when the MCU is only like 5$.  Also, it looks like the CCS programmer (if that's even what it is) simply connects to the protoboard, what if I wanted to program another MCU?  Any direction anyone can offer would be GREATLY appreciated.  I just want to get to the point where I can start programming. Thanks!


JonHylands:
I would strongly advise against getting that board from CCS. Try this one instead:

http://www.junun.org/MarkIII/Info.jsp?item=3#

Same micro-controller, but in DIP format. You can also buy more of the PICs from them that are pre-programmed with a bootloader:

http://www.junun.org/MarkIII/Info.jsp?item=12

That way you don't need a programmer as well.

Note that the CCS board does not include the compiler, which is $125. I use the CCS compiler for my PIC stuff, and I love it.

You can also look into the AVR line, if you're more of a "make" kinda person, you can get a version of gcc for it, and cheap programmers, and so on.

http://www.newmicros.com/cgi-bin/store/order.cgi?form=prod&cat=tiniavr

- Jon

Admin:
microcontroller introduction
http://www.societyofrobots.com/microcontroller_tutorial.shtml

various microcontrollers
http://www.societyofrobots.com/robot_parts_list_microcontrollers.shtml

tons of prototyping boards
http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/categories.php?cPath=2_9

DomoArigato:
Thank you very much for the replies.  I think I'll look into AVR.  It looks like it'll be cheaper, and I read that the C compiler is a lot closer to ANSI C.  So that would be nice.  The proto boards at spark look really nice too.  I didn't really think of AVR before, but maybe thats the way to go.

JesseWelling:
if i'm not mistaken...the avr-gcc is ansi C because ATMEL made their AVR cores to be C code friendly.
AVR's are the way to go in my book (I've always recommended them over pic's) because of their development environments and
the fact that you can develop code on Linux or Windows (Mac?).

If you choose the AVR id grab a Robostix here: http://gumstix.com/store/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=139
It's a pretty good value for the engneering that goes into such a thing

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