View Full Version : New hobby robot guy

02-26-2008, 09:58 AM
Hi all,

I'm pretty new at this and am still tweaking my $50 robot from the SocietyofRobots tutorial. I'm trying to plot out my next steps and figure out where to go from here. Should I go with kits from lynxmotion or build up from scratch with servos, DC motors, etc.? Anyone have any cool projects that they could recommend?

02-26-2008, 10:13 AM

I'd say it totally depends on what type of bot you want to build, did you have anything particular in mind?

You might check out our own projects section here for inspiration and/or ideas.

02-26-2008, 11:20 AM
I don't have anything particularly in mind. A biped would be nice, but wheels are good too. I guess I just want to learn for the time being until I understand a little more about what is available to me. I'm really interested in being able to use things like Roborealm and MS Robotics Studio with whatever it is I build. What good is a hardware platform without good software?

Where is the best place to start for hardware compatible with popular software? So far I've only used Atmel microcontrollers because from what I've read there is basically no software cost for compilers and editors.

02-26-2008, 11:30 AM
IMO, the best hardware platform possible is a bot with an onboard PC, making Roborealm and MSRS able to run locally. Very viable these days too. Check out the pico-ITX platform, they're quite tiny and have a LOT of features packed into them. It's what my own J5 project is based on. A Rover type robot with an onboard PC, cameras, and sensors could provide a great learning tool as far as programming and implementation go.

02-26-2008, 11:59 AM
If you are thinking roborealm and/or MSRS you will be thinking of having a computer in the mix so the serializer is a good way to go. You will need to decide if the PC will be onboard or offboard. If you want a packaged kit that has the software and hardware and could either have wheels or legs then take a look at the Bioloid stuff.


Stinger based on the Serializer:

Bioloid kits and parts:


02-26-2008, 12:19 PM
Wow, it looks like I may have some misconceptions about some of the software available and how to use it. I've seen a lot of posts saying "(insert software here) can do it" and perhaps I didn't look into it enough. So what would "Joe average beginner roboticist" use for controlling and programming their robot? Trust me, I will definitely be looking through the forums for examples. :)

02-26-2008, 12:53 PM
Hi javafiend! Welcome to the community. As a fairly new addition to the hobby I have some recent experience with getting things figured out. I personally went with the serializer and have been having a good time learning how to interface with it and make it do what I want it to.

Some things to keep in mind as you decide where to go next:

1. Understand your power source. If you want to run a PC and bot your platform will need to support it.
2. Decide if you want to have a self sustained bot or are will to interface to a PC. The serializer is just an exention of a PC, so while you can go wireless...it still has to have the PC to function.
3. Know your budget.

By the time you pickup a controller, sensors, motors/servos, etc. it might have been less expensive to just pickup a kit. Good luck with your adventure. Be sure to let us know how things go! You'll find this is a great community to find help and get feedback.

02-26-2008, 01:53 PM
>>>So what would "Joe average beginner roboticist" use for controlling and programming their robot?

It's hard to suggest without knowing this: Are you a programmer? What level of programming can you do if so? That's the big question. The main difference between kits and building from parts is a persons skill level as a programmer or how much dirty work they want to do. You can get something like a bioloid kit or Lego Mindstorms if you don't want to code your own stuff and would rather a GUI that is easy to learn.

If you are talking about building from scratch and you are a programmer then it's a lot of research and learning. There is no "platform" that exists yet. Just parts and pieces out there. MSRS is not a beginners environment either BTW.

Do you know which category you fall into? That would help us to give advice.

02-26-2008, 02:57 PM
First, kiss your sanity goodbye.
Second, kiss your wallet goodbye.
Third, prostrate yourself before your PC and loudly proclaim "I'm not worthy!"

You're well on your way.

Do more thinking than doing, initially. It will pay off.

This site (and others) is a great place to get ideas. Find a design that's not too far outside your abilities, as almost all of them can be expanded as you get up to speed. Rip off other people's ideas as often as you can. They won't mind, they will be flattered.

Get frustrated. It's part of the experience.

02-26-2008, 05:38 PM
I guess I should have mentioned to start off with that I am a programmer. I've been stuck doing web development for the last several years, so haven't been using any "real" programming languages lately.

As far as platform goes, I think my budget constrains me to being tethered to a PC or using a programmable board. For all I know at this point, those could very well be the same thing. Ah well, so much to learn, so little money... fortunately there are a lot of folks smarter than me around here. ;)

02-26-2008, 07:37 PM
Hey javafiend!

welcome to the community:)

If you don't mind me asking, what sort of budget are you working with and what do you want to get out of your budget?

02-26-2008, 08:06 PM
My budget is in the area of $100 per month. Just depends on the family budget and my wife's craft budget ;). So a large initial investment is not in the cards at the moment. :(

02-26-2008, 09:03 PM
$100/month?!? Man, you're a lucky man:D I'd be lucky to get $50.

Have you looked at the Serializer yet? It's an excellent all purpose board for the money. Definitely worth it if you can get that extra loot.

If you can't though, I'd recommend checking out Phidgets:

Their really cool because there are API's in practically every programming language that allow you to skip the need to learn about all of the lower level communications. Hell, you don't even have to know about Serial Ports:D The only downfall is that they require a constant connection to a USB host device.

02-27-2008, 10:34 AM
When you say Phidgets need a constant connection to a USB host device, do you mean just for programming or is it a no-kidding constant connection?

What other robot controllers are folks using besides the Serializer? It is still a bit out of my price range. If Phidgets only need the USB connection for programming I'll give them a closer look.

02-27-2008, 04:51 PM
a no-kidding constant connection. They're not programmable devices. They're slave devices with only embedded firmware. All of the code runs on the PC and gets sent to/from the device.

As far as other robot controllers using high-level programming languages, I'm not aware of many, at least none that have high-level API's. I believe you can use Java with the OOPic (http://www.oopic.com/). Also, if you're interested in communicating directly through the serial port, take a look at the SSC-32 servo controller (http://www.trossenrobotics.com/store/p/3191-SSC-32-Servo-Controller.aspx). That's a pretty sweet board for the money, is programmable, and I believe has analog inputs (ask Tyberius on this).

02-27-2008, 07:19 PM
That SSC-32 looks nice! It looks like there is actually sequencing software for it as well. After consulting with my wife, I convinced her to let me get a Biped BRAT with my bonus this spring. From what I can tell, it uses the SSC-32.

02-27-2008, 07:32 PM
yep, it uses the SSC-32:)

02-27-2008, 08:27 PM
Brat is a good starter bot imo. Yes, the SSC-32 has 4 inputs available as well, though its not really meant to be a micro in itself... Your best bet would be to run the SSC-32 in tandem with a Basic Atom so that you can add sensory/autonomy.

02-27-2008, 11:36 PM
I got started making robots using the lego mindstorms system. I believe it works with microsoft's robotics software as well as its own. You can get the old kits on ebay (lego mindstorms invention systems for under $100 if your careful.

The kit is pretty good for a beginner in that it gives you a feel for what sensors can do without blowing your budget. The newer kits run about $200 or so and include some pretty nifty sensors, with more available online.

I've also heard really good things about the VEX system.

As for other systems, Since you are a programmer, decide what you want the robot to be able to do, and then design or look for a robotic system capable of doing that. I have my students browse this forum for ideas. For example they are currently working on wheeled robots that can go from my classroom to another one, take a picture and get it back to them.

Good luck.

02-28-2008, 08:35 AM
For example they are currently working on wheeled robots that can go from my classroom to another one, take a picture and get it back to them.

Sounds like a pretty cool project! Be sure to have them enter it in our contest (http://www.trossenrobotics.com/contest.aspx) once they're done:)

02-29-2008, 12:39 PM
Just out of curiosity, is the Serializer compatible with the SSC-32?

02-29-2008, 03:09 PM
Compatible in what regards?

02-29-2008, 03:23 PM
As long as the serializer is capable of outputting TTL or RS-232 serial data on its I/O's, it should be able to communicate with an SSC-32

03-01-2008, 10:53 AM
Would using both of those be redundant? They both kinda do the same thing but the SSC-32 has a lot more ports, whereas the Serializer has more output options. Again, would it be redundant or is there an advantage in leveraging both of them?


03-01-2008, 12:41 PM
I wouldnt say redundant. It would allow you to turn one I/O port into a 32 servo port.

03-01-2008, 07:37 PM
I wouldn't say redundant either. With the Serializer you can interface DC motors, servos, analog sensors, I2C devices, single and quadrature encoders, switches/relays, and I think other things too. But, it is limited in the # of servos you can control (I think 6, but each one that you add takes away the # of sensors you can add). With the SSC-32 controller you can control 32 servos!

03-17-2008, 04:40 PM
Hi, I am curious as to how is Evolution ER1 for hobby level robotics. Can I use the sensors and other devices listed on the Trossen site with it? I know someone who is selling a new ER1 for low price, so I am wondering if I should grab it. Been working with Vex for a short while now.


03-22-2008, 05:19 PM
What other robot controllers are folks using besides the Serializer? It is still a bit out of my price range. If Phidgets only need the USB connection for programming I'll give them a closer look.
You have opened the gate now! :happy::happy:

I started out in August of 2006 with a $69.95 (does not include microcontroller or other electronics) kit called the Octabot II from Budget Robotics (http://www.budgetrobotics.com) that is much like a Parallax BOE-Bot, but provides a bit more space for mounting stuff. I also really like eight sided things, so that also appealed to me. :happy: It uses continuous rotation servos for locomotion, like the BOE-Bot and others.

To this kit, I added a Lynxmotion Bot Board II (http://www.lynxmotion.com/Product.aspx?productID=252&CategoryID=66) and a Basic Atom (http://www.lynxmotion.com/Product.aspx?productID=269&CategoryID=66) microcontroller (another $84.90). There is also the Atom PRO microcontroller, which is faster and has more program memory (double that of the Basic Atom). However, the Atom PRO does not have quite the support the Basic Atom currently has, but this is also changing. I also have some issues with the Atom PRO IDE used to program for the Atom PRO, but that's another story. The Atom PRO is the same price as the Basic Atom, which never made sense to me.

I still have the original Bot Board and Basic Atom mircocontroller, but am replacing that as soon as I get the software side of my Hammer Board squared away and working the way I want it to work.

Fast forward almost a year and a half and we see my robot (W.A.L.T.E.R.) having only one original part from the kit I started out with - the center caster (which will also be replaced soon).

Well, that's how I started out and that path has served me well to this day. I have been able to build on knowledge I gained right from the start of my journey into robotics.