Being a tinker-er at heart, I have always had an infatuation with figuring out how things work. When I was a kid I'd tear down the weed eater that stopped working and fix it, or my parents would call on me to figure out why the vacuum was no long sucking stuff up. As I worked through college and my masters degree as a property manager the job was always about problem solving, figuring out efficiencies, etc. Over the past few months I've had a desire to learn robotics, and so I started the quest by researching the different outlets out there if you are like me: know what servos are, have a basic idea of remote control, like to problem solve, and generally like to put things and tear them down again … I am by no means a programming expert and actually know very little about programming.
My approach is this. I wanted to attack it from both ends. I wanted to get a high level idea of what I wanted to get into, but I also wanted to get into as soon as possible. This way, we can merge the intellectual reasoning of the "whys" and "hows" as well as get to work with hands on learning. This can be completed as follows: Listen to these introduction to Robotics lectures put on by Standford (Yes, the Stanford), and yes, for free. They can be found here at academic earth . The very first intro lecture will give you an idea of whether or not this is something you want to get into. You'll learn about kinematics, encoders, how to track movements; all of the basics that go into programming a robot. You'll need some time (and access to Google so you can search the words that you are not familiar with!) To listen to these, and if I recall correctly, they can also be downloaded as podcasts-again, for free. So you take a few weeks to work through the series (the high level stuff) while simultaneously getting a beginners robotics kit.
I have found that the Lego Minstorms NXT 2.0 is a great start in that it includes everything you need to get started-easily. There is also tons of resources online and forums that will help you expand your horizons as you get into the hobby. Sure, you could go out and buy the latest arduino electronics, hitec servos, and a hexapod kit … but you'll be out well over 700 bucks after all is said and done … and if you are where I was when I got interested, you would not have a clue what to do with it all! Buy an off the shelf kit, build it, have fun; while expanding your knowledge on the subject with other resources, books, online wikis, etc.
Source by Paul McGillivary