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Resilient
12-10-2008, 05:10 PM
I am a computer science student. I have owned RC planes, cars and boats sense I was little. I am quite comfortable with mechanical tinkering and soldering. However, electronics are not really my thing. When I try to follow directions to make simple circuit boards, things go pop, then start smoking. Dispite that, I am still facinated by robots.

I am trying to figure out where would be the best place to get started in robotics given this.

I want something where I can really get into programming, using input from sensors and generally working on the software side of things.

The less I have to do to get it to interface with my computer, the better. For example, I made a serial to RS-232 adapter for my Roomba, and was not that excited about it. But actually programming the Roomba is quite interesting. I would just like something a lot more flexible. It would be a big bonus if it worked well with C++ or Python as those are the two languages I know best.

I have a bunch of digital servos lying around and am very good at working with them, so something that can be used with a digital hi-tec style servo would really be great.

I would really appriciate any help you might be able to offer.

Adrenalynn
12-10-2008, 05:38 PM
Welcome to the forum!

An SSC32 (http://www.trossenrobotics.com/store/p/3191-SSC-32-Servo-Controller.aspx) or the new 84 channel servo controller (http://www.trossenrobotics.com/store/p/5891-84-Channel-USB-Servo-Controller.aspx) would allow you to trivially control your current servos from your PC over either RS232 serial or USB serial. I even banged-out a quickie tutorial re: using the SSC32 with C# - effectively the same thing will work with MS C++...

indy007
12-10-2008, 07:12 PM
I found phidgetts to be easy to work with and straight forward. Easy to use libraries for all the MS Visual languages. They've been solid products for me, and I've beaten them senseless. Easy to use libs made it so I could easily plug & play the major components into different projects (off-road vehicle, flight simulator, other toys).

The downside is that the controller boards don't have near the space of what Adrenalynn is talking about with that monster 84 channel servo controller. I'd have gotten one if they were out when I started tinkering. It is by far the best option, imho, for making a "simpit". It'll give me the opportunity to drive almost an entire f-16 cockpit from 1 controller and save thousands of dollars.

I am a very happy camper.

Adrenalynn
12-10-2008, 07:23 PM
Phidgets = overpriced, underpowered. For the most part, I just can't find an excuse for 'em... ;)

Resilient
12-10-2008, 07:29 PM
I am leaning towards the SSC 32, as I dont think I will need to control more servos than 32 servos. However, I like the USB port on the 84 channel controller.

Are there drivers that are needed to use the USB? I have been experimenting with running things from a Linux based netbook and the killer for me has been drivers.

Eric
12-10-2008, 09:01 PM
I agree with Adrenalynn. Phidgets are nice but really pricey and the ssc-32 rocks. Check out the tutorial section and pull up her code she wrote. It'll jump start your project really quick! (plus it is way cool to have more than just 4 servos hooked up. I just got one of the ssc-32 and I love it.

lnxfergy
12-10-2008, 09:09 PM
Adrenalynn, no suggestion of the Serializer? http://www.roboticsconnection.com/p-16-serializer-net-robot-controller.aspx

Would give you access to many sensors rather than just servos. Also has options to go wireless if you want to make a mobile robot later on.

-Fergs

Adrenalynn
12-10-2008, 09:13 PM
Yeah, he'd only mentioned servos, and servos are a weak point for the Serializer. If/When the ServoWizard gets released to pair to the Serializer, it'll be great!

The USB drivers needed for these devices are almost universally FTDI, and they are supported under Linux. It's just a TTL -> Serial USB driver - falling off a log simple.

The SSC32 is great because of its power distribution options and its very robust but simple command interface.

metaform3d
12-11-2008, 12:25 AM
I second Phidgets as a way to get started. A 4-servo board is relatively cheap considering that you can be up and running with zero experience. If you're a beginner and you have -- what's it called? oh yeah, a life -- you can't go wrong with Phidgets. No electronics are involved!

If you are interested in learning microcontrollers, I would heartily recommend the Arduino Diecimila board. It's about $35 and has a free IDE which is based on C++. You can drive servos (at least 6 pretty easily) plus read analog values and handle digital I/O.

jes1510
12-11-2008, 09:29 AM
I think the FTDI drivers have been included in the Linux Kernel since around 2.4. Most of the USB to RS232 bridgeware uses this chipset.

Simply plug the board in and you will have a new device appear in /dev, probably USBttyS0. Send data to it however you want.

Resilient
12-11-2008, 01:20 PM
Thanks for the help everyone. I think I am probably going to get started with the SSC32.

Is there any reason this wouldn't work with HSR-8498HB servos? My school has some of those I can play with if I run out of my own servos. :)

Adrenalynn
12-11-2008, 01:58 PM
Other than their being wimpy, no issues at all. ;)

devilDroid
12-11-2008, 07:03 PM
Welcome to the forum!

An SSC32 (http://www.trossenrobotics.com/store/p/3191-SSC-32-Servo-Controller.aspx) or the new 84 channel servo controller (http://www.trossenrobotics.com/store/p/5891-84-Channel-USB-Servo-Controller.aspx) would allow you to trivially control your current servos from your PC over either RS232 serial or USB serial. I even banged-out a quickie tutorial re: using the SSC32 with C# - effectively the same thing will work with MS C++...

Do you have a link for your tutorial?

devilDroid
12-11-2008, 07:11 PM
Found it: http://forums.trossenrobotics.com/showthread.php?t=2328 (http://forums.trossenrobotics.com/showthread.php?t=2328)