Learning interfacing and basic electronics?

I’m a newcomer to robotics, with 30 years of experience in software and nearly nothing at all on the hardware / electronics side. I’d like to learn how to get stuff working with my Vex controller other than the Vex-branded parts – things like speech synthesizers, infrared or other wireless communications technologies, and so on. Can anyone suggest a book, online course, kit, or other way to help me get up to speed on the necessary skills? I’m more than willing to start with whatever basic theory-type stuff is relevant. Thanks in advance for any suggestions you might have!

Not specific to robotics, but in itself an excellent and quite thorough introduction to electronics is the ARRL Handbook, published by the American Radio Relay League (www.arrl.org). Note that you may be able to find older editions for less money - they do not change much from year to year.


The ARRL handbook is a good book but covers a limited number of topics. An even better book is called “Practical Electronics For Inventors”. It will walk you from the very basics all they way up to more advanced electronics. It also keeps the math to a minimum. If there is anything you don’t understand. chances are you can skip it and learn it later. I have read MANY electronics books and this is by far the best i have come across.


This isn’t robotics specific but I’ve found The Art of Electronics to be a great book, very detailed with a lot of great examples. (The book is a bit old so some of the component specifications are out of date, but the theory and technical content is still excellent).

I’d be a lot better engineer if I ever finished reading this book! :smiley:

Ditto. I wish I had that book in college as a quick reference.

Has anyone done a white paper on FIRST electronic interfaces?

the interfaces used on our robots and VEX is pretty advanced, its not all simple E=I*R level stuff

I cant think of any one textbook that a student could read that would bring them up to a level where they could be a VEX or IFI robot control systems expert

maybe we need something like that? A book for students who have enough curiosity about FIRST to want to be able to tinker and build things on their own, off season

or to buy IFI control systems from ebay and build their own robot.

I know once you are through maybe your 3rd year of an EE degree you would have hit on all the related topics, but for someone who just wants to understand well enough to tinker… I got nothing!

That’s funny you mention that… I have that book sitting on my shelf right now! I have flipped through most of it, but have hardly delved deep into most of it. It is a great book and reference. I got mine a while ago used off of Amazon and saved some money.

Can we start a list on things that should be included? I’ll start…

  1. Correct method of terminating wires and why.

I’ve been looking at the MIT 2.007 website and their Design Handbook looks like it has a lot of good information on manufacturing, design and a variety of other topics that would be appropriate for FIRST.

There is a section on DC Electronics that might be helpful (and related to this thread).

Everyone should read through Chapter 3, Electrical Safety. I would caution everyone who reads this that illustrations on body contact with neutral wires tied to ground starting on page 95 of the text (105 of the PDF) is not entirely accurate. Even when the “neutral” wire is tied to ground at the source, a fault (internal short) will cause current to flow in the neutral and a voltage will be developed by that current flowing through the resistance of the wire. When a third “grounded” wire is added, the shock hazard remains but the design intent of such circuitry is that the third wire will insure a circuit breaker trip in addition to the limited protection provided.
The text has some very interesting discussions on circuit analysis and general DC electronics with good illustrations.