without any linux background it is going to be a steep learning curve if you want a project in 8 months. You will probably need a background in linux and some familiarity with ARM embedded processors before you can even start.
one of the challenges you will face with the beaglebone is that it is a relatively new product so there isnt much material available yet for study. If you dont have much experience with embedded systems i’d suggest starting with something simpler like a microchip PIC project or an arduino. these are more established and have a larger body of knowledge available on the net. depending on what technology you go with you can buy training kits relatively cheap, from places like http://futurlec.com/Boards.shtml.
hope that helps,