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Online course

Begin Robotics

Explore the history, anatomy and intelligence of robots with this free online course. Test drive robots using exciting simulations

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Begin Robotics

Explore robot anatomy, control and behaviour through a set of simulated tasks

Robots today are roving Mars, hoovering our floors, building cars and entertaining us in films. And, if you share Stephen Hawking’s world view, the super intelligent ones may one day bring about the end of the human race.

If you’d like to find out more, but don’t have Hawking’s brain or an advanced qualification in cybernetics, this course is for you. You won’t require a soldering iron, but you’ll explore the basics of robot design, control and behaviour through a series of simulations that will have you test driving an ERIC – our very own University of Reading mobile robot.

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

Week 1:

  • An introduction to robotics from a cybernetic perspective
  • Overview of different types of robots and their application
  • History of robotics
  • Introduction to the robot simulations used in the course
  • Problem solving: commanding a mobile robot to move

Week 2:

  • A description of the components of a robot – sensors, actuators, ’brain’ and power supply
  • An understanding of different sensors, their operation and application
  • A description of motors, and how their velocity is set, and other robotic actuators
  • Problem solving: commanding a robot to achieve tasks on the basis of sensor information

Week 3:

  • Feedback for control and human-machine interaction
  • An explanation of feedback control of steering and speed in robots and in other applications such as balance, temperature and damping oscillations
  • Simple mathematical modelling of robots and different forms of control strategies
  • Human-Computer Interaction: feedback, including haptics
  • Problem solving: commanding a robot to follow a path

Week 4:

  • Feedback for Learning and robot: robot interaction
  • An appreciation of neuron based brains through Braitenburg vehicles
  • Robot learning by trial and error
  • Multiple robots and artificial life, relating to biological processes
  • Problem solving: commanding a robot to traverse a maze

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Describe different forms of robot and applications where they may be used
  • Determine the appropriate commands to allow a robot to achieve particular tasks using information from sensors
  • Appreciate how aspects of robotics can be applied in many different scenarios

Who is the course for?

This course explores the basics of robotics. It doesn’t assume any prior knowledge and you don’t need to own your own robot to take part.

This course includes video content and other visual teaching methods. As such, blind and visually impaired students may need a helper.

Please be aware that this course contains video clips that include sequences of flickering/flashing lights which might affect learners who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy.

Scampi (pictured above) is a 28 gram walking robot created by Robotics student Rory Mangles and is mostly made of paperclips.

What software or tools do you need?

The exercise Steps in this course will work using Chrome, Safari, Opera and Firefox browsers. They will also work on Internet Explore 9, 10 and 11 - however, earlier versions of this browser will not support these Steps. You must have JavaScript enabled.

Who will you learn with?

Richard Mitchell

I am Professor of Cybernetics in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Reading. My interests include Education, Computing, Control, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Gaia Theory.

Timothy Threadgold

Teaching Fellow and Doctoral candidate at the University of Reading. Currently writing my thesis on novel materials for multilayer infrared filters for space based applications.

William Harwin

Professor of Interactive & Human Systems at the University of Reading.

Who developed the course?

The University of Reading has a reputation for excellence in teaching, research and enterprise.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Get extra benefits, upgrade this course. For $89 you'll get:

Unlimited access

Upgrading will mean you get unlimited access to the course.

Image access mobile

  • Take the course at your own pace
  • Refer to the material at any point in future

If you’re taking a course for free you have access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join. If you upgrade the course you have access for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn.

Certificate of Achievement

Upgrading means you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course.

Image certificate mobile

  • Prove your success when applying for jobs or courses
  • Celebrate your hard work
  • Display on your LinkedIn or CV
  • Includes free shipping

To receive a Certificate of Achievement you need to mark 90% of the steps on the course as complete.

Upgrade


Still want to know more? Check out our FAQs