Let's Make Robots!

Brainstorming!

Hello everyone,
Excuse me for jumping ahead of myself but I won't have access to tools or workspace for about a year so I'm trying to do as much planning as I can. I'm intending on starting at the start-here robot and build up something that is controlled wirelessly and has some autonomous functions. Eventually I would like to add a camera

So this is the control flow that I'm thinking of using...

Wireless USB gamepad
Laptop
xBee USB Explorer
xBee
xBee
Board

...and finally my questions are:

1. Which board should I invest in? There seem to be pros and cons with both the Picaxe and Arduino boards. Does one integrate with wireless control more easily, is one more suited to what I'm eventually aiming at?

2. What language would you recommend for the laptop control it will need to scan for input from the USB gamepad and/or keyboard and send instructions to the xBee as well as provide a basic GUI? I've done some low level C stuff years ago as well as web programming so I'm basically going to have to learn as I go with a new language.

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Cheers guys!

I'm learning C++ right now and hopefully will have got my head around enough of it to do what I want! ...and then when I get home (in a year or two) I will be able to start on the mechanical and electronic side of things.

 

Set your target high but start out with the fundmentals and experiment and build as much as possible. Also, breaking your big ideas into smaller parts and breadboarding before commiting to something locked in solder will save you a lot of time and expense while getting there.

Thinking big can be a very useful exercise. However, I'd advise you not to get too detailed on the big plans yet. Dive in and get started; keep your dreams in mind as you go and it will help you make good choices.

If the big dream is a robot with wireless control, some autonomy, and a camera, that's a good start. Now what are the building blocks to get you there? You've got a good head start with your plans to build the start here robot. You will learn a lot. Once you get that done, and have experimented with it and understand the basics, there are plenty of examples on this site and elsewhere to build your knowledge in the other areas you are interested in. Enjoy the journey.

Regarding your two questions, I think your choice of platform will help direct your choice of for the laptop control. For example, if you choose Arduino as your platform, that might push you in the direction of Processing for the PC/laptop portion. They work well together.

As to platform, if you are already comfortable with C-style programming, I'd recommend Arduino over Picaxe. The Picaxe is a great platform; it's where I started. My programming background was pretty weak, so the Picaxe Basic language made it more accessible to me. Once I got over the fear of C++ on the Arduino, I found that platform more capable in many situations.

However, you could build a start here style robot with either, or with any number of other platforms. Keep in mind that this choice doesn't need to be set in stone. Pick one and get started. In the long run, whatever platform you choose has capabilities and limitations. Designing with them in mind is what makes building a robot fun and a great learning experience.

 

This is a learning exersize for me so I'm just after general opinions! As soons as I get back I'm going to start small (make an LED flash) and work up but until then I'm going to think big!

Thank you!