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I have been thinking of building external hardware that i could control via usb or some sort of power control device that would be controled by my computer?  any suggestions on a device or program that i could use to work on such things?
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take a look at this web site:

http://mindstorms.lego.com/

(do not let the fact that this is LEGO deter you.!!!!)

AW
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Commented:
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Well, I'd say begin with a good book, and here's a great list of suitable books: http://www.amazon.com/My-Favorite-Robot-Books/lm/2Q6K9ZKZX6MH4

Here's a place with some great kits, but if you look elsewhere on their site (at the Orangutans), they have controller and other components as well: http://www.pololu.com/products/robots.html

Cheers,
LHerrou
Commented:
There is lots of fun stuff out there.  Though you might want a clear idea of exactly what you want to do before you start buying stuff.  Basic USB relay control directly from a PC is not too bad but once you move into programmable  controllers,  servos, sensors etc. it can add up fast.

For a pretty easy to use modular USB control system take a look a Phidgets,  comes with instructions for software interfacing and does not really require any soldering to make stuff.

http://www.phidgets.com/

Interface board,
http://www.phidgets.com/products.php?product_id=1018

Relay module for power switching,
http://www.phidgets.com/products.php?product_id=3051

They have a whole variety of sensors,
http://www.phidgets.com/products.php?category=2

Here's a store site that carry wide variety of components and kits from a number of manufacturers,

http://www.robotshop.ca/home/products/robot-parts/index.html

Checking out some books is probably a very good place to start.  

Its a pretty broad field if you can be more specific there may be something well suited we can point you to.  Also depends on how dirty you want to get,  soldering circuits and writing C source code for something or more plug and play.
You can also use VEX kits sold by IFI Robotics. They are cheap compared to some other solutions, they are effective. You could also use their FRC Operators Interface and FRC Robot Controller for more complex and creative codes, but they are more expensive solutions. I would recommend VEX as I have used Mindstorm kits, VEX kits, and the FRC Kits (that are made for FIRST Robotics) and it is the easiest to program, especially if you have the Easy C package.  

IFI Robotics - http://www.ifirobotics.com

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