Let's Make Robots!

Purchasing supplies is becoming a project of its own...


When I say I am an absolute beginner, that is what I mean.  I have been reading up on robot building, but I am a hands on type person, so I want to start building as well.  Obviously safety is key, I don't plan on doing/trying anything that I don't understand.

My biggest challenge so far is getting the parts.  There seem to be a ton of online retailers for electronics, and I feel like I keep starting to fill up a cart, and then finding a better site, doing it all over, etc.  Money is a huge factor for me, and I find myself drawn to grab bags and tool kits instead of buying individual items.

I would have no problem buying a few things now, read some of my book, buy more parts, and so on, except S&H costs and wait time factor into my desire to buy the basics all in one shot. 

All this to ask: for someone who has a screwdriver and that's it, what should I get to cover an initial project or two?  More importantly, where??

Again, I am the noobiest of noobs when it comes to building robots, so I apologize for this question.  But after hours of research, I am still scratching my head.  Electronix Express seemed like a great site, until I read some pretty shoddy reviews.  I appreciate any suggestions


Thanks so much



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about tools for a workbench. One piece you will likely find useful is a breadboard. I don't have the posts from here collected, but, use this link to help you locate the posts that suggest tools for your workbench.

For a quick and cheap/dirty robot, get a pair of servos that are or can be made into continuous rotation servos, a pair of wheels in the 2" to 3" diameter range, a 4 AA battery holder and batteries, a small breadboard, a PICAXE 08M, and a switch or two like this. A robot composed of most of the parts I just mentioned is here.

ChristheCarpenter may chime in with "start with blinking a LED." :) He is right.

Buying components
   There are 3 suppliers at the bottom of the homepage that when you enter the code ALABTU will give you 5% off your purchase as well as 5% of the income from your order to LMR to help pay for hosting costs and whatnot. When you need the not so specialty robotic components(resistors, capacitors, LEDs, etc), suppliers like JAMECO or even ebay are useful for purchases. 

that's awesome, thanks!  JAMECO was the first co I ordered a catalogue from and it seems good.  Thanks for pointing out the 3 suppliers, I totally missed that!

Everyone skips general electronics which is sad, because they won't know what basic components are. I would start with analog circuits, then progress on to digital circuits, then microcontrollers. By the time you get to building your first robot with a microcontroller, you will have acquired alot of knowledge on electronics and thus be able to build just about everything you need.

I actually agree 100%.  I don't intend on building a robot for a while, I am literally still learning what things like sensors and breadboards and multimeters are. I think my first project will be something along the lines of: try and make this LED light up. I guess that's my basic problem (and my solution!).  I am stumbling onto sites that assume knowledge of electronics and programming so 'beginner robot builder' is still more advanced than where I am.  Thanks!!

this post may contain some useful information and BEAM robotics might be something else to look into for inspiration and education. I will admit that digital electronics are a bit more familiar and understood by me than analog.

BEAM robots are very cool, and make for great projects once you become conversant with the basics.
some BEAM links:


as a fellow noob who just stocked up on parts himself i would suggest a few parts to stock up on.
(i will asume you will be working on low power DC projects like battery or usb powered devices.)

-resistors. you can never have to many or to many values of these, values from 1Ohm to 10M 1/4 watt are common.
-capacitors. you will want to try out different values for effect, so make sure you have some veriety.
-pnp and npn transistors. 2N3904, 2N3906, 2N2222 and 2N2907 are very common.
-signal diodes. 1N914 and 1N4148 are common.
-rectifier diodes. 1N400* are common.

also i would recommend getting a bunch of 555 timer IC's.
this is a very old and legendary chip that is very versatile and has allot of educational
material dedicated to it.
check out these links:
lastly i would recommend you add to your list a bunch of 555 timer ic's.
the 555 is a very versatile little chip that is great fun to experiment with and has allot of
articles and tutorials and other educational material dedicated to it.
check out these links:

also this looks like a good place to start for basic electronics:

lastly i would suggest a project to try:
its a logic probe. you can use that to check for digital signals, which will be handy
later on when you get to the micro stuff.
i was able to build this, and i even managed to mess up a 'herbie the mousbot' :P
and is there anything more awesome (besides robots) then making your own test equiptment?


oh yeah, i just bought a bunch of parts to begin with from ebay and i havent had a problem yet.
got the cheapest of the cheapest from the cheapest sellers too, so far no problems.


awesome, thanks for the list! Ebay is tempting not gonna lie...

...there were the Forrest Mimms books at RadioShack.  I think you can still get them there.  Basic - basic - electronic theory and simple but fun circuits (analog and some digital) to build using cheap and readily available components.  Some of the books also showed how to build simple transducers and sensors.

Before the Forrest Mimms there was the Amateur Scientist column in Scientific American magazine.  Those two sources taught me enough to be mildly dangerous.  (I think I still have a cardboard box of parts that was going to turn into a CO2 laser...)