Online course in Science, Engineering & Maths

Begin Robotics

Learn robotics by exploring the history, anatomy and intelligence of robots and test drive robots using exciting simulations

  • Duration 4 weeks
  • Weekly study 3 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $69 Find out more

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. You may even share Stephen Hawking’s world view that 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?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

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?

The course is designed for anyone with an interest in robotics- you don’t need to own your own robot to take part!

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.

Who will you learn with?

Richard  Mitchell

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, AI Gaia Theory and Programming.

William Harwin

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.

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