I'm a high-schooler enrolled in a high-expectations computer course. We
have a project of our choosing due in April. I'm considering building a
small robot, but I don't know if I have the time or resources. Could
someone give me an estimate of how much robot-building equipment would
cost? I don't have soldering equipment or a multimeter or anything of
the sort. I also would like to know what kind of time commitment I
would have to make in order to build a small robot of my own design
with simple programming (such as a line-following robot or a
remote-controlled robot). I'd appreciate any insight.
I remember those days! Most of my stuff would fit in a shoebox. I did ok
with a Radio-shack soldering iron, but buy some GOOD quality solder -
not RS stuff (less than impressive).
For tools, you should be able to get away with a soldering iron, wire
strippers/cutters, solder, solder-sucker, a multimeter (again, a
cheap RS will be fine), and some needle-nose pliers. Them's the
essentials. For building a framework, I like to use Sintra (expanded PVC
sheet), which glues well, and cuts nicely. Heating in hot water also
makes it bend with little effort.
Whoooboy. All depends on how quick you are to learn programming, and how
comfortable you are with electronics.
You know, "Robot Building for Beginners" with any of several "PIC"
robotics books will be a good background read for you. But if you want
to go programming, you may want to check out the whole ATMEL AVR route,
which offers free programming environments and easy computer-to-chip
BUT then again, I like BEAM (little microprocessor), so take that with a
grain of salt.
I would think that you could start out for about $150 or less.
I would start with:
1. One of the bases from Budget Robotics
These come with motors
2. A simple solderless breadboard that you can get from
Radio Shack or better. I got mine at Kronos Robotics
3. A microcontroller. Me, I like Java, so I'd start with a
uVM-452. This is a PIC 18F452 with a bootloader to run
code post-compiled from Java class files. The URL is
the right one, but the site is pretty bad. I'd email
the owner and ask. In single quantities, a chip runs
If you prefer BASIC and such, I'd go with a Kronos Robotics
DIOS chip. Again this is a PIC 18F452 with a special
bootloader, but this one runs BASIC.
4. An RS232 to TTL converter
Again, this should run you around $10-20. You can make
it yourself if you want, it's not difficult.
5. Sensors. Start with switches and photoresisters. Go
on from there.
D. Jay Newman
Jay and Dave gave you some good info.
I agree that using a chip from Kronos robotics is a good place to begin.
The manual is fairly good and everything is designed to work with a
solderless breadboard. Make sure to read all the app notes and examples
on their webpage. Especially the ones dealing with hooking up an H
bridge. There is also a forum on the site where you can ask questions.
The company owner checks the forum several times a day and he is very
happy to answer questions.
Although I think Gordon's platforms at budget robotics are great, you
can actually just use the solderless breadboard as your first robot.
The breadboard has double stick foam tape on the bottom it. You can
stick motors and battery packs on the bottom. Go to solarbotics
http://www.solarbotics.com/ and get two of their GM-3 gearmotors. They
come with some really small wheels, but you might want to get the bigger
wheels they offer. The nice thing about solarbotics is that they have a
$4 flat rate shipping to the US. (This will be fairly biased to being
in the US, but you can get most of this stuff world wide. It will just
cost more to ship and take longer).
For general electronics and tools, go to All Electronics
http://www.allelectronics.com/ . Their $10 multimeter (with the audible
continuity tester) is all the multimeter you need for now. You will
also need their cheep wire cutter/stripper, a needle nose plier, a flat
blade plier, a cheep soldering iron, good solder, and rosin paste (makes
soldering a LOT easier put a very thin layer of it where you want the
solder to go with the tip of a toothpick). You can get all of this at
All Electronics. They also have flat rate shipping in the US ($6).
The best place for sensors is the Mark III robot store
The book that is practically a must is Gordon McComb's Robot Builder's
Bonanza. It is worth the $17 at Amazon.
Finally, look for a local robotics club. It is always good to have some
one locally to ask for help.
Go here, and buy this...
(Amazon.com product link shortened)05524889/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/103-7060693-4941426?v=glance&s=books&nP7846
This book (Junkbots, Bugbots, & Bots on Wheels) was my intro
into BEAM robotics, and I still haven't found a better one. It
covers the basics, such as soldering and scavenging parts
(great when you're on a budget), as well as the construction
of several robots which would be well suited to a high school
robotics project. Take a trip down to your local book store
and thumb through it, and you'll see what I mean. If you're on
a limited budget, as well as a limited time-frame, this book may
be just what you need.
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