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How to Use This Book

How to Use This Book

A wise philosopher once said (I don’t remember who it was, but trust me, he or she was really big-brained): “There are basically two types of people: Those who insist on shoving people into silly little categories, and those who don’t.” Wait, that’s a different dichotomy than the one I was going for. (Accessing memory banks...) Here’s the one: “There are basically two types of people: Those who think that today’s digital technologies are actually intelligent (and are therefore conspiring to make us humans look dumb) and those who know that these technologies are quite stupid and are basically standing by, waiting for us to make them do something interesting.”

If you’re the former kind of person, fear not. This book is here to hold your hand as we lead you into the exciting realm of the robot kingdom. Trust us: It’s really not as complicated as it might look. We’ve designed this book to be as user friendly, fun, and plain-spoken as possible. If we’ve done our job, you should come away from this journey with a conversational knowledge of all things robotic: where robots came from, where they’re headed, and how to build them yourself. This knowledge might not do much for your cred at cocktail parties, but it might help you break the ice with that condescending IT guy at work. More important than that, this book should help boost your confidence in approaching seemingly intimidating high-tech subjects and give you the tools to understand one of the next big growth sectors of technology: robots! If you find the three projects in this book too intimidating, you can be perfectly happy building the robot kits and building sets detailed in Chapter 6, “Acquiring Mad Robot Skills.” Many of these don’t even require soldering.

If you’re the latter type of person, this book should serve you well too. We’ve tried to load it with interesting facts, people, Web addresses, and other resources that will help you quickly get up to speed on your robot explorations. And you should find the projects fun and challenging (but hopefully not too challenging).

This book is divided into three parts:

  • Part I, “Robot.edu,” serves as a crash course in robot history, basic robot sciences, the various schools of thought driving robot evolution, and more. This is not only here to give you some background, but also to give you some conceptual tools for how to think about robots as you begin to build bots yourself.

  • Part II, “Gettin’ Dirty with It,” is where you start putting greasy thumbprints all over this book. We run through all of the basic tools, supplies, materials, and techniques used in basic robot building, review kits and building sets, and offer a number of quick tutorials on need-to-know subjects. We call these Thumbnail Guides. We also present three robot-building projects that increase in level of difficulty, from a simple one-motor walker to a programmable robot platform you can use for many experiments beyond what’s covered in this book.

  • Part III, “Resources,” is not just a two-dimensional listing of books, Web sites, and so forth, but substantive reviews of the best material out there related to robots. There is a revolution in do-it-yourself robotics going on now, with thousands of amateurs collaborating and sharing their work over the Internet. We plug you directly into the heart of all this exciting activity. Don’t mention it. It’s what we live for.

I wrote this book because I love robots and wanted to share what I know with you. I hope you learn a lot from it and will end up sharing some of my passion for the subject. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about the book, please don’t hesitate to email me at garethb2@streettech.com, or visit my Web site at www.streettech.com. On my site, I will include project bug reports (read these before starting the projects!), the CD templates and programs for the DiscRover (Chapter 9, “Project 3: Building a DiscRover”), larger versions of critical images, such as breadboard hookups, reader robot hacks, and more. So stop by and join in.

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