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CProgrammer

robotics and C++ programming

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Well basically I want to get into making a robot using a laptop as brain. I will be writing the Programm in C++. Now i''ll need some usb devices or the like to connect the robot to Servos, LED''s etc. Anybody have a good place to get started on the subject. Or even better a Starter Kit I can order that holds all the necessary components. Thanks in Advance. -CProgrammer

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Lego makes some very nice kits. I''ve worked with two of their products, the RCX mini controller and Handy Board w/ expansion. I really dont know much about their availability or price because they''re custom versions that were issued to us for a student robotics competition. Anyways, they both connect through the serial port of your computer. The handyboard connects directly, but the RCX uses an IR port (which connects to your serial port). Their native language is InteractiveC, which is very much like regular C with only a few twists, and even includes a library very much like the C standard library. Not quite C++ like you had asked, but similar enough to keep you happy I think.

All of this can probably be researched further at Lego''s website.

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Actually I already have a Mindstorm set.
I''m planning to build a real robot. I already have someone who will do the engeneering part. We have a workshop with the necessary tools to build the thing. Basically what I need now is the gadgets, such as SERVOS, LEDS etc. and the hardware and software to connect it to my laptop, which will make the laptop function as brain. I dont want to use microcontrollers.
-CProgrammer

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I imagine the main problem will be designing the interface between the compy and the robo. Serial and parallel ports were popular for this back in the day...if those still exist. They''re well documented and there''s a lot of resources on writing custom drivers and such. THe only thing is that you''ll need a decent comp/electrical engineer to get stuff going so the robot responds correctly to the comp''s commands. The ports won''t be able to drive the systems directly, but some bounceless switches, a couple motor controllers, some power transistors (MOSFETs maybe), and you should be in business.

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I''ve driven a stepper motor off my parallel port, using a freeware driver (I think you can find it here). I also recommend jameco electronics for basic supplies; good selection and I believe good service too (though since I haven''t had any order problems it''s hard to say).

Good luck on your project.

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For like 160 bucks or something you can get 8 servos and a controller. Buy 2 remote control cars (used maybe) that have a pwm speed controller, basicaly a remote control that you can push the stick forward and go half speed, but that is of decent quality), Take the 2 motors the controllers, make a frame with a caster either in front and back in the center or 2 in the back on each corner. Hook the 2 motor controllers up to 2 of the servo controller ports, buy a basic stamp (Get the most expensive one so u have lots of inputs later). Buy 2 2 way rf transceivers from the same site. Hook the 2nd one up to a serial cord. Bust out some quickbasic or maybe there is a way to resource the serial port in c++. I know for the parallel port you need a special ocx in VB. Write your base code to set up variables and build serial packets, then start making communication code to talk to the basic stamp. Then start programming the basic stamp to set up a few variables addressed by the transceiver to control servo reutines for the motors. Then you have 6 servos to make arms and probably 32 or so i/o lines which can be expanded by using a demultiplexer? Hope that helps.


edit: my bad this is the part that always pissed me off when i was trying to experiment, where? Jameco Is great for all kinda of electronics and some robotics specificaly, they buy all their parts from Robot Store. For metals, bearings, gears, motors, springs, Grainger that may not be spelled correctly. Parallax makes the basic stamps and transceivers (basic stamp 2 at least for later expansion, sip-solid antena transceivers). Good luck, keep us posted.

edit 2: fixed links.
[edited by - honayboyz on April 11, 2004 11:59:45 PM]

[edited by - honayboyz on April 11, 2004 12:00:59 AM]

[edited by - honayboyz on April 11, 2004 12:04:34 AM]

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Check out this site: FerretTronics

They have a bunch of stuff based on using serial communications.

If you want to go wireless I think you can google for the keywords: saw transceiver

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Wow thanks for all the replies guys.
DerAnged: Thats a neat idea. So basically you have a wireless connection to the computer through the nokia. If you got any details on this technic I''d be very interested.

Jameco looks good I''ll have a look at that.

I definetly agree that connecting the robot to the computer will be the major problem. I really didnt want to get into programming my own drivers. I just like the experience in that field. However any sites on the subject may change that.

I imagined there to be something like the following. if there is please tell me:
A SDK that comes with the necessary hardware. Basically come controller that is plugged into the serial or parallel port and communicates with my programm through an SDK.
I could then connect the SERVOS etc to the controller in its various ports(pins).
I know something like this wouldnt be too cheap, but im willing to invest a bit.
Any ideas here.

FerretTronics looks interesting in regards to this. I''ll have a look at that and all the other sites shortly.

Thanks again
-CProgrammer

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