New to robots

Hi everyone. I have spent the last few days looking up on robots, and would love to build one. I have about 15 years experience with rc cars, planes, and helicopters. Other than that dont have much knowledge on robots. Couls any of you give me a few suggestions on how to get into this. Weather i should get a kit or first try a few very simple home built bots. Thanks for any comments.

Well the RC background will certainly serve you well, but I think the real question is what you’re interested in doing. I think there are two main ways to proceed from where you are, a kit approach and a project approach.

You can probably skip the beginners kits (basic soldering, mechanical linkages, simple DC and servo motor control) but there are a whole lot of medium to advanced kits that come with text-books rather than instruction sheets. Many of these focus more on homebrew embedded electronics and microcontroller programming that you may not be as familiar with yet. You don’t end up with an awesome robot right away, but you build up a foundation of knowledge and avoid a lot of pitfalls later. If you’re interested I have a couple to recommend, one is a more general embedded electronics overview, and one is much more specific to microcontroller programming and I/O.

The other approach is to dive into a project that excites you, even if it is technically over your head right now, and figure out what you don’t know as you go (web searches, robotics forums, etc…). If you’re thinking about getting into robotics because of an interest in a specific kind of robot (i.e. I’d really like to build a walking robot, or mount a robot arm on the back of an RC car, etc…) this would totally be the way to go.

I don’t think one approach is necessarily better than the other, and they’re not at all mutually exclusive. Personally I find I need an exciting project of some sort with a goal to motivate me to learn something new on my own. Then, if I get way, WAY over my head, I’m much happier working through a text-book or the guide to an evaluation kit.

So, what is it that has you interested in robotics?


Thank you very much for your comments and suggestions. I guess the thing that really attracted me to robots was how you can take different electronice sup as resistors, compasitor and ic chips, and make something that can perform tasks on its own. I know one thing i think would be fun to build is something that can drive on both carpet and smooth surfaces, and attach like a ir sensor and mess around with my cats. Would be funny to see their faces.
So far i went out Sunday and got the book “Junkbots, Bugbots & Bots on wheels” By Dave Hrynkiw and Mark W. Tilden. I thought this might be a good start because most parts are very easily found in old electronics. Also i figured they would be much simpler to start off with. So tonight when out a got a bunch of different supplies to see what i can do. I would really like to here the few you would recomend. Thanks again for your response.


I wasn’t familiar with that book, but it looks really neat and like a good place to begin. Actually I recognize a lot of the projects in it from Solarbotics. I’ve always found BEAM robots fascinating, but played around with them much.

If you find yourself interested in programmable (microcontroller based) robots I have two book/kit recommendations. Parallax has a great series of books for the Basic Stamp microcontrollers, all available as free downloads (flowchart here), but of course you’ll need the kit parts as well. I’ve never actually worked completely through one of these, but they’re great for reference for odd things like “How would I build a sensor that detects water level and interfaces with a microcontroller?”.

AVR microcontrollers (which most of the Pololu products are based on) are a little more advanced, but also more capable, and there’s a great book/kit called “C Programming for Microcontrollers” by Joe Pardue (various versions here) that really got me going with AVRs. A little prior experience with the C programming language would be helpful, but really you can pick that up as you go.