Let's Make Robots!

Complete noob here


I just came across this website today and it looks like a vibrant community.  I'm interested in learning robotics as a hobby and have no idea where to start.  I'm a pretty good programmer, but I come from the web world - programming web and middleware in the enterprise - Java is my most proficient language. Although the languages may not be applicable in robotics, I'm hoping my experience in programming will give me a head start.  I have some experience with electronics from college, but that’s about it.  

Anyway, I probably don't know enough to ask direct questions so I'm asking for some direction.  Are there questions I need to ask myself before starting? Do I jump right in with the many start kits I'm seeing online?  

Any feedback is greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance! 


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It's basically the same with me and a lot of others-although I have some experience programming with C, which gives me some sort of a head start in Arduino programming-but basically knowingg any programming language is valuable to anything programming related.

The sort oof questions you need to ask yourself are like this: What Microcontroller do you want to use? PICaxe is simpler, though Arduino is C based and for the most part more powerful.You should decide on what microcontroller and board brand to use and then look for a well known recommended type. That's all the advice I can give you for now, I hope you learn a lot regardless.

Thanks for the feedback aaronT.  I've been poking around the site and came across the "Start here" section.  It talks about exactly what you mentioned - selecting PICaxe vs Arduion.  I guess I'll start there and see where it takes me.  I'm sure the more I learn the more questions I'll have. Again, the feedback is much appreciated.  See you around!

No problem, and I hope you do make a good decision. Out of curiousity, what languages (programming wise), do you know?

I'm leaning towards Arduino, but I really do like the BOE-BOT kit TheGrue suggested.  I'll be sure to report back once I get going.

As for web-related programming I mostly use Java.  I got into .Net using C# for a short time, but didn't keep up with it so I'm not as proficient.  I also use PHP frequently and a bit of Perl.   I haven't used C programming since school days, but I dont imagine it being too time consuming to pick back up. 

I use PHP too, though I know more web-based languages like HTMl and CSS and JavaScript and all that beautiful stuff-and C++, which is why I chose Arduino.


I lean towards Arduino because though it's "more difficult" to use (so some people claim), it's "more powerful" and makes "more better robots". I havn't heard of the BOE-BOT kit, but I'll look it up.

Nice,  yea PHP is great!  I know CSS and Javascript as well, but my strengths aren't GUI development, though I get by. 

 The BOE-BOT uses Parralax's pBASIC. I also found a Java-based microcontroller kit (http://www.ridgesoft.com/intellibrainbot/intellibrainbot.htm), but the price is too high compared to these other options.  

As TheGrue mentioned, one thing I like about the BOE-BOT kit is the integrated breadboard.  I'm going to make some sort of decision this week and jump right in - i'm getting impatient and just wanna play.  LOL

The Parallax Propeller can be programmed in Java and it is the basis of the Stingray robot that has a breadboard for experiments

I started with a Parallax BOE-Bot kit first to get my feet wet. There are many many ways to start your adventure in Robotics. The point is to look for on that you would like to build and read some reviews on it. I started reading "Robot Magazine" for over a year before choosing the BOE-Bot kit. My decision was based on a review of what I could learn from the project (I downlooaded the free manual to read before purchase) and there are now many more kits that have the exact same goal namely to teach robotics.

My advice is to get one with a BreadBoard on it so that you can run experiments and add other functions to it. I built one kit robot before moving on to my scratch built robot. You can jump into the START HERE with the PicAxe and several other people have built Arduino start here robots on this site so you can search for them to see what they have done.

There is no right or wrong answer, just different paths of learning... The main thing is to "Have fun"

TheGrue, thanks for the simple and straight forward advice... makes a lot of sense.  Your personal experience is greatly appreciated as well.  Sounds like BOE-Bot kit is a great start.  I'll be sure to keep your advice in mind; can't wait to get started.  =)

I decided to go with Arduino.  I purchased the Arduino Experimentation Kit (ARDX) so that I could go through the examples and get a brief introduction to electronics.  I found a NY based company that sells it but they were out of stock, so I bought it from Solarbotics, located in Canada (searching through Google Products I found a link that came with a free Ardweeny with the purchase - I have no idea what that is, lol).  I downloaded the experiment guide from here.  Once I complete the guide I'll start on my first robot.  I'll be sure to report back.  

Thanks so much for the advice in helping me make a decision guys.  Much appreciated!  

Now it's time for fun =)