Beginners Robotics Guide: The Checklist

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For all people who are just starting out ( assuming that you know nothing ) . Here's an idea of all that is required from you to build a robot ...

Robotics as a hobby or interest is not as easy as you might think. Building even a simple robot requires on your part to know quite a few things like electronics , programming , mechanics etc . So, I have compiled a small check list of things that are required.

Electronics -

It is a must. I don't assume that you have a degree in it but you should be able to look at a resistor or capacitor and tell its value also have a basic understanding of the various electronics laws and formulas . You should be able to measure current , voltage etc and theoretically calculate the values required . You should also have basic understanding of how various components ( transistors , diodes , IC's ) etc. work so that in case of a problem you can easily debug the circuit . Remember, in India you will have to build the whole robot your self - no kits are affordable .

Books -

A good book goes a long way in helping you out . They are invaluable resources for reference and looking up things . They also provide instant reference for circuits and other important information . But please be careful in buying a book as not many robotics books are available in India which offer a practical insight .

Mechanics -

Not much is required but you must know how gears work , how much they can handle etc . A small introduction will do the trick.

Programming -

Please remember, there is no running away from it . Whether you are building a micro controller based robot or you are building a computer controlled robot using AI and Image recognition etc . The more features your robot will have, the more programming it will require . I advice you to learn C and Assembly ( depends on the MCU ) .

Basic hardware requirements -

Please remember that you cant test a circuit , solder it without some basic hardware which are required in most cases . Here is a small list of things which I recommend you must have before buying various components (Remember these prices are not fixed, they might be different where you live/buy stuff from)

Item ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Approx Cost
A Digital Multi meter -------------------------------------------------------------------Rs 140
A Good soldering Iron + stand --------------------------------------------------------Rs 50 + 15
Solder ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Rs 15
Solder Flux ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Rs 10
De soldering pump ----------------------------------------------------------------------Rs 40
Bread Board -------------------------------------------------------------------------------Rs 110
Regulated Power supply ( 1A + ) ----------------------------------------------------- Rs 80
Logic probe --------------------------------------------------------------------------------Rs 15 - 20
Wire cutter and stripper --------------------------------------------------------------Rs 35
A glue gun ( really good to stick things ) ------------------------------------------Rs 140 +
A hand drill -------------------------------------------------------------------------------Rs 40
Various types of wire
All purpose PCB -------------------------------------------------------------------------Rs 10 / piece

Place to buy -

Please be sure where to get your components from, like in Delhi "Lajpat Rai Market" has a lot to offer, "Lamington Road" in Mumbai and so on . So, please know where to buy from , in case you live in a small city, the radio and TV repair shops are a good source for simple things but for IC's and MCU's and other things you will have to order or get them yourself . Remember ordering off the Internet usually costs twice as much if you do it yourself .

Start off small -

Please start off small, like building a small bump switch based robot, then IR based ... slowly advancing and getting into more complicated stuff . Don't start off with something which you can not handle like trying to build a path finding robot when you cant even build a small bumper based robot . Best advice for starters is to build maybe - A bumper based robot , IR , sonar based , line follower etc .

Be Proud of what you do -

If you are building a robot , give it a name , document it and share your experiences with others . Don't think that your robot is inferior in any way . You are just starting out and nobody expects you to build a masterpiece . Keep working on the robot on a daily basis or maybe once or twice a week , but not on monthly basis (you wont remember anything most of the times and will waste time trying to remembe ) .

Don't reinvent the wheel , Just ask -

If you are working on something and if that has been done before look it up and take help from there, e.g. if you are building a servo controller the best advice will be to use someone else's code than waste time coding yourself . Also ask a lot of questions, don't hesitate and most of the times you will get a good enough answer .