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Thread: Reccomendations for a CS student

  1. Reccomendations for a CS student

    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.

  2. #2

    Re: Reccomendations for a CS student

    Walking is quite challenging, mechanically. It sounds like a rover (wheeled robot) with sensors would be more up your alley.

    You might want to look into the Donkey Car approach? That's a competition circuit that tries to drive RC cars around a small indoor track using neural networks on a Raspberry Pi.

    If you're more into actually picking things up, a rover with an arm, like the TurtleBot, might be the way to go. Or you could build an arm out of your digital RC servos, and strap it onto a RC car of suitable size (probably 1/5 or 1/8 to hold the weight of the arm.)

    There also used to be a nice chassis called the Wild Thumper for roving robots, but I think that's not made anymore. Mod it to add some motors with encoders, drive it with a RoboClaw 2x30A driver, and you have a great mobile platform. Add a microcontroller like the Teensy 4.0, or just a wireless link to your computer with something like a Raspberry Pi, and you're good!
    (Edit: They're still making the Wild Thumper)

  3. #3
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    Cool Re: Reccomendations for a CS student

    Quote Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
    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.
    I agree with @jwatte and you should take a look at the Donkey Car using Raspberry pi and/or Jetson Nano implementations.
    I just picked up a Jetson Nano due to its support for machine learning capabilities. Just like you, I am in the masters program in CS and have started robotics project to help implement my research.

    Some of the other options are AWS Deepracer which is based on reinforcement learning; micro mouse robot competitions which is very popular in Japanese universities and is based on both ME, EE, and CS. Lastly, take a look at the ROS (Robot OS, but not really an OS) route for controlling your robot. I am a beginner at ROS myself, I see it as a platform for sharing and supporting many of the open-source functionalities that is already built to control your robots and its sensors. Also, it supports both C/C++ and Python so you should have low barrier to entry. Good luck and share your findings so we can learn from your adventure as well.

    Kevin.

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