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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Young Wana-be Robotic/Computer Engineer

   
Author Topic: Young Wana-be Robotic/Computer Engineer
Darth_Mauve
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My son Sasha is 12. He has decided that he wants to be an engineer when he grows up--specifically Computer Engineer or preferably Robotics Engineer.

Besides spending $300 on a Lego Mindstorms system, are there any suggestions you folks have for him to do to test and hopefully encourage this choice?

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Teshi
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At no cost, give him access to computer programming and mathematics programs. I introduced Scratch to a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds I was teaching. They were smitten. They quickly got the hang of the drag-and-drop interface and were starting to create their own games. It took me about one day to learn enough to get them started and it took them about two lessons to know more than I did and start teaching themselves.

Of course, such a program has limits, and so transitioning to a 'real' programming language would be fairly easy for a twelve year old, provided his interest remains.

Let him (safely and under your supervision) poke around inside desktop computers and understand the components.

When I was a kid, lego technic involved motors and gears. Not sure if it still does, but it would be cheaper than Mindstorms right away.

When I was a kid, I went to a computer summer camp that involved robotics. There might be something like that near you.

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MattP
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To tie teshi's recommendation in with your Mindstorms thought, there is a Scratch plugin that allows you to program Mindstorms robots called "Enchanting". http://enchanting.robotclub.ab.ca/tiki-index.php

When he gets comfortable with that, the next step would be simple microcontrollers like Arduino. There are a number of introductory books and starter kits available.

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Aros
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That's my field, military / defense background.

Here's a good starter resource:
http://jacquesricher.com/NEETS/

Snap Circuits are also another good way to get into the basics of electronics. It's not quite as in depth as the Mindstorms, but he'll learn a lot more about the theory:
http://www.snapcircuits.net/

Mindstorms are great. They use a simplified version of the actual programming software used in the real world. The investment is huge, though. It might be better to have him dip his toes a little first. There are often local clubs where he can participate before buying his own set.

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brojack17
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You can use C++ on the Mindstorm too. They grow with the kids pretty well. Check out the FIRST organization. They have robotics programs for all ages and are worldwide. www.usfirst.org
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CaySedai
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There's also littleBits, which look like fun.
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Samprimary
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a second Lego Mindstorms to replace the parts that are broken or lost from the first
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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
a second Lego Mindstorms to replace the parts that are broken or lost from the first

Look who's already prepared for the week after Christmas with a little kid.
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Stone_Wolf_
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http://www.sketchup.com/intl/en/product/gsu.html
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James Tiberius Kirk
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Might want to look into an Arduino UNO starter kit. I'm twice his age and having a blast with one.
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Thesifer
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http://www.groupon.com/deals/robots-4-u-19?p=1&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&sid=d2c814e0-2bf7-4943-ad06-3f9d0861f30b&division=oklahoma-city&user=25bc0124df8f267045016be98 148d3188eb7049ae779941ca5bbd4c5f3d7e510&date=20130517&s=body&c=deal_button&d=deal-page&utm_campaign=robots-4-u-19

Saw this on Groupon today, reminded me of this thread. I'm sure they have this is other locations. At least pretty sure.

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rav
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I'd second a vote for the Arduino Uno for great low level hardware interfacing, and learning more about circuits. (http://arduino.cc/en/Main/arduinoBoardUno)
For lower level software I'd recommend checking out the raspberry pi. (http://www.raspberrypi.org/)

For higher level software, check out C / C++ with the Student versions of Microsoft Visual Studio C / C++.

The Arduino and Raspberry Pi can run C and I believe C++ code. I'd recommend that as a great start for learning to program as well. While it can be extremely complicated C can and will teach many great low level practices that will help in all levels of programming.

I've been far too busy at work and school to actually do much with my Arduino, but I expect to spend some time in the next few months.
Good luck.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Darth_Mauve:
My son Sasha is 12. He has decided that he wants to be an engineer when he grows up--specifically Computer Engineer or preferably Robotics Engineer.

Besides spending $300 on a Lego Mindstorms system, are there any suggestions you folks have for him to do to test and hopefully encourage this choice?

If he is interested at all in cybernetics, you should maybe look into Cycling 74 products like Max/Msp. This is a programming environment (mostly used for music), that is designed for building cybernetic systems. It has applications in robotics, and is a nice intersecting point for someone interested in engineering and programming.
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