Intermediate Robot Building

Author: David Cook
Publisher: Apress, 2010
Pages: 480
ISBN: 978-1430227540
Aimed at: Those willing to build a robot from scratch
Rating: 4
Pros: Lots of details about the craft involved
Cons: Not a quick route into using or programming a robot
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead

This is a book about model building rather than about robotics.

Author: David Cook
Publisher: Apress, 2010
Pages: 480
ISBN: 978-1430227540
Aimed at: Those willing to build a robot from scratch
Rating: 4
Pros: Lots of details about the craft involved
Cons: Not a quick route into using or programming a robot
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead

This is a great book as long as you are its sort of person. It describes how to build a small robot from scratch and it has an unusual emphasis on mechanical construction, including describing procedures from things as simple as drilling holes to using a milling machine.

In days gone by these skills would have been commonplace and the advice about making sure that holes are drilled centrally and, for axle couplers, with no angular offset would have been unnecessary. If you are fairly skilled at making things then you might find some of the description insulting but given that the author has gone to some trouble to make them interesting and even included photos of what things look like when done the wrong way you might still find things of interest - I did. 

Take the hint from page 7

"I admit that I really enjoy milling. It's very relaxing. I truly find a milling/drilling machine an indispensable tool in robot building."

After reading just a little you start to wonder how the author managed to get up the strength of mind to make the incorrectly drilled examples he photographed!

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After the preliminaries the book starts on the subject proper with three chapters devoted to homemade motor couplers - many robot builders simply buy them complete.  Of course there is a lot more explained here than just "drill some holes in a bar". Chapter 5 continues with building a motor inside a wheel.

Chapter 6 starts in on electronics with a look at the basics including how to read a diagram and standard components. My only complaint is that the section on working with surface mount components is far too short - this is a common problem that modern electronics constructors have to deal with. Chapters 7 and  is about building a linear regulated power supply suitable for a robot  - not from scratch using transistors but using a 7805 IC. 

Chapters 9 and 10 deal with the serious business of creating a motor controller - the heart of any mobile robot. This covers simple single transistor drive and bridge drive using discrete components and ICs. Chapters 11 and 12 move on to sensors with a look at IR.

Chapters 13 and 14 put everything together with the building of the Roundabout Robot. A simple two wheel motor driven obstacle avoider.  Chapter 15 introduces a micro-controller - but not an Arduino or any thing so prepackaged but raw chips - and Chapter 16 applies it to the robot. Chatper 17 adds a sensor to the robot and chapter 18 is a round up of "going further" ideas.

I liked this book but I have to point out that it doesn't take the easy route to building a robot. If what you really want to do is get started with using a robot then there are quicker ways to get on up and running  - including buying a complete kit or even a complete finished robot.

What this book is all about is the love of building things and I'm not sure if actually using or developing the robot is part of the author's agenda. In the world of astronomy it isn't unknown to find amateurs who spends all their time building telescopes and never get round to actually looking through them - and this is the robot equivalent. You also won't find much about programming in this book - not even of the microcontroller.

So - as long as you love building things and want to learn how to handcraft robots then this is the book for you. I thought it was great.

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Practical API Design

Author: Jaroslav Tulach
Publisher: Apress
Pages: 387
ISBN: 978-1430243175
Audience: Java API creators
Rating: 3
Reviewer: Alex Armstrong

A strange topic as not many programmers get the chance to design a public API - but with the influence of the web this is slowly changing. Is this a book you have to re [ ... ]



Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby

Author: Sandi Metz
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Pages: 272
ISBN: 978-0321721330
Audience: Any programmer interested in O-O design
Rating: 5
Reviewer: Mike James

Surely we all know about object oriented-design by now? Not really, a lot of what we know needs to be recast to suit dynamic languages and agil [ ... ]


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