Software weenie wants to learn Mechanical Engineering...

Hi,
About a year ago, I picked up a soldering iron again after 25 years or so of programming. I've been getting acquainted with a microcontroller
and the circuitry to drive various motors and servos, along with reading various kinds of sensor data.
I work for a big technology company here in San Diego, and I have access to a machine shop with CNC lathes, mills, etc. I find myself wanting to design and build all sorts of things (I've modeled various ideas in 3-D software), but never having had any formal mechanical engineering classes, it'd be more like trial and error than actual _design_... I want to do engineering, not bumbling-hacking...
I know that it's possible for EEs to learn to program late in life (enough to get a microcontroller to do what they want)... is it a realistic notion that I, a humble software weenie could learn some ME basics - enough to be able to design articulated robot arms that aren't underpowered and don't collapse under their own weight, killing their creator?
Any advice on books, sites, groups, podcasts, etc. would be very much appreciated.
Mr. INTJ San Diego, CA
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It would depend on your level of knowledge & experience in the mechanical world before your detour into the programming world (& any mechanical experience during your programming years. Any construction, repair or design experience? An avid DIY'r?
With enough effort & brains just about anything is learnable.

their creator? <<<<<
Start small, build 1/2 or 1/4 scale. Read up on scaling. Hook up with an experienced guy who does the sorts of things you're interested, offer to be his helper. You'll learn a lot quicker "on the job" than by reading and trial & error. Yeah it is possible to self learn / self teach but to make progress at a reasonable rate you have to have to be at basic skills level.
Getting to "basic skills level" by reading is probably harder & takes longer than progressing beyond basic skills level by reading.
What I'm trying to say is:
getting beyond basic skills can easily be done by reading & doing
getting to basic skills level by reading is much tougher
Design is something that is difficult to learn by reading.....it's something one learns by doing or working with someone experienced in design.
It's been so long for me it's hard to remember back to my "not knowing stage"
I guess I would suggest these Schaum's Outlines as starting points
Engineering Mechanics Strength of Materials Machine Design
understand these & you'll be well on your way to being able to do passable design.
they haven't changed in years & you can get them used on ebay for <$5 each, combine purchases from the same seller & save on shipping
imo the jump to software / programming from the mechanical world is easier than the reverse. Plus software can easily be tweaked & re- run, hardware is a whole different story. Once it's hardware (not a drawing) making it & modifying it a lot harder (time & money) than a software tweak. Hardware iterations take a LOT longer. Sometimes is easier to start from scratch than rework something.
cheers Bob
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Great advice. Thanks for the reply, Bob.
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