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Thread: New to Robotics - Looking to educate my son

  1. #1
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    New to Robotics - Looking to educate my son

    Hey everyone,

    I am what you would define as a newbie with a lot of ideas and no idea where to start. So I will start with my reasoning and work from there.

    I have always been a fan of robotics. In high school I was a driver for an electric car program that used a modified bike frame and a powerful motor to create a veritable race car (50+ MPH) for around 2700$ that came second to a 110,000$ car from Michigan. I love BattleTech, and proudly am a member of Clan Widowmakers (currently on MWO).

    My fundamental motivation for getting into this now is my 4 month old son. My education was deplorable at best because a lack of challenge and it did little more but to cause myself undue duress from lack of motivation for lack of interest. I don't want this to befall my son. Additionally I find it hard to see humanity advancing ourselves if we teach the same education to all students we have for the last 100 years. <-- In a nut shell, calculus has NOT changed. Algebra has NOT changed. There is no advancing our species even if we all know complex mathematics fluently. Advancement comes from teaching more complex levels of education at younger ages in ways the intended audience can understand and use to develop themselves.

    So with that in mind, I intend to blend robotics into my sons education (and supplant a lot of the slow-paced and seldom updated education in the public school systems with augmented virtual reality lessons). Obviously he is way too young now, but the idea is for me to learn myself, and teach my son, using the time in between as a means to refine a syllabus for him.

    One Arduino/Raspberry PI project I am collecting parts for is creating a sensor suite package that can serve as a veritable "backpack" for mechs the scale in Mech Warfare, but also to allow it to be simply mounted outside ones home and provide a wealth of information regarding their local environment. Eventually I plan to work on a host of robotic projects, biped, quadraped, and a counter-rotating helicopter drone scout with long range capabilities and autonomous flight. In most cases taking existing builds, improving, or accessorizing them in a useful manner beyond proof of concept and into practical use.

    But all that above is basically the MO for half of us in here I am sure.

    Anyhow, I was wondering if there are some teams or individuals located near Boston MA that would like to meet up and discuss robots, tips, and any lessons learned that said party would be willing to share in person. I have some disposable funds when/if necessary, and it concerns my sons education so I am not disappearing.

    I have a well rounded experience, work history includes MIS, Helicopter Ground Crew, Equipment Operator (forklifts, excavators, etc), Commercial Driver, Construction Worker, even a delivery boy. There is also the warm and fuzzy bits of childhood stories of playing with explosives, projectiles, and my general problem solving skills.

    I have been looking at some builds but some guides seem a little sparse and gloss over factors that are assumed to be at a level a little more educated.

    For first robot I am looking at something like Immortal or PhantomX (Yes totally going to drown, but that is how I learn best) though I will likely be fabricating my own components.

    So you've read my story, if you have gotten to here. Any suggestions?

  2. #2
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    Re: New to Robotics - Looking to educate my son

    First of all, good on you for taking a swing at this! Can't really meet up with you since I'm not in the same country, but here's some thoughts:

    Quote Originally Posted by ubentobox View Post
    I have been looking at some builds but some guides seem a little sparse and gloss over factors that are assumed to be at a level a little more educated.
    Very true, it's a multidisciplinary field. Three basic areas to study, however, are mechanics, electronics and software. The best tutorial for a beginner that I've seen is the $50 robot. Maybe you won't end up building it, but at least flipping through the tutorial should give you an idea of what areas you need to learn about.

    Quote Originally Posted by ubentobox View Post
    For first robot I am looking at something like Immortal or PhantomX (Yes totally going to drown, but that is how I learn best) though I will likely be fabricating my own components.
    I like this style of learning too. What do you have access to in the way of manufacturing equipment? Some form of CAD software will also help immensely, although it's not really an essential.

  3. #3

    Re: New to Robotics - Looking to educate my son

    If you know little mechanics, little electronics, and little software you will struggle!
    You need to know at least one of those fields pretty well, before you start looking into the synthesized applications like robotics.
    For example, if you know software, then you know what you're trying to do on the command side, and when the robot doesn't do what you want it to, you know how to troubleshoot "out" from there, and end up at the problem -- say, an overloaded joint, or whatever.
    Same thing if you know mechanics or electronics -- you can first verify the things you're very confident in, and once that's established, work your way out to solve the problems that come up.
    If you know none of the fields, then you're pretty much lost, because you have no "safe" place to start from.

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    Re: New to Robotics - Looking to educate my son

    I'm going to suggest the first project be a bit more cautious... but you'll still learn a ton

    Specifically, this tutorial is well proven: http://www.societyofrobots.com/step_by_step_robot.shtml

    You can certainly skip the part where you create the microcontroller board, and instead use, e.g., an Arbotix board right off the bat. It's a great tutorial for first stab at combining electronics, mechanics and programming.

    Let us know what path you take, and if/when you get stuck...

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    Re: New to Robotics - Looking to educate my son

    There are actually some very direct step by step instructions on adafruit.com (MIT Grad one). They have numerous tutorials specifically on how to code (which is my most major flaw, just lack of a need outside of game servers). I have worked in some capacity as an electrician which gives me some understanding of electronics along with my Raspberry PI. As far as mechanics go, I am one of those who are fortunate enough to have an engineers brain (problem solving, understanding of structural stresses, geometry brain as I call it(can see everything in my head). Its both a product of growing up in a house where my dads garage has a tool for everything and half my family are architects, contractors, of work for nasa's civil engineering program. Outside of that the school here conflicted with my methodology and local environment was counter-productive.

    There is a similar project to the one you have linked at adafruit, http://adafruit.com/products/749. It runs with a prototyping shield build into an arduino platform. This is going to be my first. Also.. cardboard wheels wouldn't survive my little terror hahaha. I will take all your input into note and thanks for the suggestions.

  6. Re: New to Robotics - Looking to educate my son

    You can also try the Robonii robot to start it in a fun way. It was designed to be a Robotic toy to play single and multiplayer games, but a Game Write and all the chematics and source code have resently been release on 'www.robonii.co.za' The site contains some video's that will show you what the system is all about. Start programing the robot using flow-charts or the game writer before diving into the source code! All software used is free ware and the robot can be programmed via the USB cable.
    You can get it from Amazon or directly from the site.

  7. Re: New to Robotics - Looking to educate my son

    Hey, welcome.

    Id suggest starting with a small project. I started where you are like half a year ago. Make something like what you linked from adafruit.

    In terms of a hexapod or quad, the mechanical is imo the easiest part. Its the part where you can use your imagination. The hardest part imo is the code. Each part of building the bot has its highs and lows, but here and lynxmotion is a good place to learn.

  8. #8
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    Re: New to Robotics - Looking to educate my son

    4 months old!? Congratulations. You have so much time! don't worry just yet. Think about it this way. Your son won't be in kindergarden for another 4 -5 years. In that time things will have changed quite a bit. Also...you might want to look into finding or starting a FIRST Robotics program in your area. They have programs going from kindergarden JrFLL all the way up through the end of High School. It is a bit of a cult, but in a good way. (I have a bias I am a high school FIRST robotics coach.)

    As for you, A lot of the Kit bots are pretty well documented and will get you on your way pretty quickly. My first robot kit was a Lego mindstorms kit back in 1998 or so. Once you have some basics down you will be able to get into the bigger stuff pretty easily. As a beginner you will probably want to follow a well beaten path before branching out on your own and being creative. I'm not sure how much time you will have with a newborn in the house, but even simple things like the arduino LED stuff or moving a servo is a good start. If you really want to see things moving around then I would suggest the lego NXT , Bioloid STEM, or even the Vex kits.

    best of luck!

    DB

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