Evan Boldt's picture

Raspberry Pi Introduction


The Raspberry Pi minimally needs a micro USB-B cord to power it. If you have a phone charger, aside from an iPhone, it will likely use this cable since the EU made it mandatory for smartphones. So, you probably don't even need to buy another wall adapter or cable if you look around. You can also plug it into a computer to power it, though you are not able to communicate with the computer over it. Additionally, an Ethernet cable connecting it to the same LAN as a computer is one of the easiest ways to get started. Unless you can figure out what IP address the Raspberry Pi will get, you will also need a keyboard and a monitor or tv capable of using either HDMI or the yellow RCA connector.

The Raspberry Pi does not come with an SD card, which you will also need. You will need to install an operating system on it as well, so it should be at least 4GB to be comfortable. Some SD cards are faster than others. Higher speed is denoted by a higher "class" number. This class will primarily effect install, startup, and upgrade times and there is no mandatory minimum.

Evan Boldt's picture

PD Feedback Control Introduction


A PD controller can be used in a real-time on a robot where a goal value can be both measured and controlled. A PD control is robust, which means that it can overcome unexpected behavior. 

For example, a PD controller could be used in the cruise control on a car. The driver decides the goal speed and the controller in the car could see how fast the car is going, since cars have a speedometer. Under ideal conditions, all it would take to maintain speed is to keep the engine throttled at a predetermined constant amount. However, many unforseable factors can change how much gas is needed to maintain speed. For example, the quality of the gas, engine temperature, road incline, and wind speed. A controller needs to be able to overcome these unpredictable or difficult to measure sources of error to maintain a given speed and accelerate or decellerate as needed.

Evan Boldt's picture

JavaScript and jQuery Introduction


JavaScript is an actual programming language that is interpreted and run by your browser. It makes a webpage interactive and dynamic instead of just a rigid page that doesn't change once it's loaded. You can use it to send and recieve bits of information without having to load another page.  It allows you to drag and drop elements, or react to clicks and hovers. You can even use it to make an in-browser game.

It is syntactically similar to Java. It requires semi-colons at the end of each statement. However, it does not have rigid data types. Any variable can store data of any type - sort of like python. In fact, a variable can even store a function or actually contain nothing (undefined).

Evan Boldt's picture

CSS Introduction


htmlTagName, #idname, .classname {
stylename: stylevalue;
color: black;
font-size: 12px;
background-color: #ddd;

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet. In HTML, you use it to apply a certain look to specific elements in the page. CSS makes it easy to give every page on your website a unified appearance. The format is extremely straightforward, but to be effective you need to know how to specify which element you want styled, find current styling information in a webpage, and you must be aware of all of the styles that can be applied to an element. The general form of a style in a CSS file is like the example shown to the right.

Evan Boldt's picture

Introduction to C++ Programming


Programming is becoming more useful in a variety of fields. There are a lot of uses, but we are most interested in robotics applications. Microcontrollers like the Arduino are programmed in C++, which is undoubtedly the most widespread language. It is powerful, fast, and easier to use than some earlier languages. However, it is not the easiest language to learn. It has a very strict syntax and the errors can be hard to understand. It is still worthwhile to learn due to its usefullness.

If you are just interested in learning programming in general, I highly recommend looking at Codecademy, which is an excellent interactive environment for learning for the first time. Of their courses, Javascript is most similar to C++, but Python is the easiest and most powerful choice. 

The Basics

Programming is actually quite simple. There are really only a few things that you need to know to get started.

  • Data is stored in "variables"
    • The right hand side of an equals sign goes into the storage with the name at the left 
    • There are different kinds of variables that contain different kinds of information
  • A program is executed top down
    • Each line is terminated by a semi colon
    • Comments are ignored ( lines that begin with two slashes: // )
    • There are three fundamental actions that alter the top-down flow:
      • Conditions: do something only if something else is true
      • Loops: do something repeatedly
      • Functions: do a group of things and get a result

Evan Boldt's picture

HTML Introduction


HTML is the language that your browser reads when it shows you a webpage. It is a variant of XML.  It makes the actual content that you see, but also can contain visual styling information (typically in the form of an external CSS file) and also can have an in-browser (client-side) programming language called JavaScript.

Bare Minimum Example

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>   <head>   <title>Minimal</title>   </head>
    <p>Hello World!</p>

Tag Structure

Tags are put on either end of something to describe the content between the tags. Since HTML is visual, think of a tag as a box drawn around whatever is inside of it. The outermost tags are <HTML>, <HEAD>, and <BODY>. The <HTML> tag simply says that the contents are HTML. It is the very outermost box on the screen. The <HEAD> tag is invisible. It summarizes the contents (like title and keywords) and also lists files the page needs like stylesheets and scripts - both of which can alternatively be embedded into the actual HTML file if desired instead of being a seperate file. The <BODY> tag is where the actual content that you see on in the browser window goes. It can contain images, text, and other containers.

Evan Boldt's picture



LaTeX is a typesetting system. It's an easy way to make very professional looking papers. In fact, many academic books were written in LaTeX. You can usually tell by looking in the first few pages. Somewhere it might say "Typeset in LaTeX".

LaTeX cannot really help you build a robot, but if you are building a robot either professionally or academically, you will need to present your project in a technical and professional manner with a well-polished document.

LaTeX basically takes a plain text file with special syntax and compiles that syntax into a well-formatted PDF.

Evan Boldt's picture

Data Storage


Storing data on a computer is a lot like storing things in a warehouse. If you keep track of where you put things well enough, it shouldn't matter how much stuff you have stored.

Imagine an empty warehouse. If you store something in it, it doesn't really matter if you keep track of it because it's easy to look for it again. If the warehouse were full, you better keep track of where you put your stuff or you'll have to look everywhere for it. In a warehouse, you would probably write down an isle number, a shelf number, and maybe a pallet number. This way, you don't look through all the things, just go directly to the right place.

Jenn Case's picture

Basics of a Tkinter GUI


It is often necessary to being to communicate with a robot while it is in use. This can be done simply through a remote control or more complexly through a GUI. The GUI can allow the robot to both send an receive information while a remote control will only be able to send to the robot. A simple way to make a GUI is through Python Tkinter. Using Tkinter along with Serial, the code will allow easy communication between the robot.

This tutorial will show how to use various parts of Tkinter and show how to make a GUI look good.

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