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

64,430 enrolled on this course

Begin Robotics

Explore our introduction to robotics

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.

But what are the different forms of robots today? And how do they achieve particular tasks? In this introduction to robotics course, you’ll explore these answers and more.

Discover the history of robots and their modern application

You’ll kick things off by taking a look at the basics of robotics. By exploring the history of robots, you’ll learn about some of the uses of these fascinating machines.

Next, you’ll explore some of the modern applications of robotics and our relationship with them, helping you gain context for what’s to follow.

Learn about the basics of robot design

On this robotics for beginners course, you’ll discover some of the fundamentals of how robots are made. As well as looking at some of the key components of robot design, you’ll also examine how they operate.

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

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.

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  • Week 1

    Introduction to Robotics

    • Welcome to Begin Robotics

      Here you will find out what we have in store for you over the next few weeks and how you can use the platform to make the most out of your learning experience.

    • Robots an introduction and brief history

      Let's get started by looking at the definition and history of robotics.

    • Robot applications

      In this section, we'll look at how robots are used and our relationship with them. We'll also introduce some of the robots here at the University of Reading.

    • Robot simulations

      In the first two of a series of simulations throughout the course, you will be able to test drive an ERIC. This week you will be able to set the speed of ERIC to determine movement.

    • Review and reflect

      Review and reflect on what you've learnt this week and test your knowledge with a quiz.

  • Week 2

    Robot anatomy

    • Welcome to Week 2

      Have a look at what will be covered this week - robot anatomy.

    • Sensors and Actuators

      Let's look in detail at sensors and actuators and how these allow a robot to move, measure quantities and achieve certain tasks.

    • Moving a robot

      Now we'll look at how a robot moves. In particular, types of motors, power supplies and the 'brain'.

    • Week 2 simulations

      Check out week two's simulations, where you will get the chance to navigate an ERIC around a racetrack.

    • Anatomy of the robots at the University of Reading

      Let's look at the anatomy of some of our very own robots at Reading including ERIC and the rover robots. Then we'll meet R2-D2.

    • Review and reflect

      Review and reflect on the week and then test your knowledge with a short quiz.

  • Week 3

    Cybernetics and control

    • Welcome to week 3

      What will we be covering this week on control and why is it so important in robotics?

    • Control

      Let's take a closer look at how we can control a robot and also how it can be done automatically.

    • Feedback and interaction with robots at the University of Reading

      We'll show you some of the ways you can interact with the robots here at the University.

    • Haptic technology

      Find out about what haptic technology is and why it plays such an important part in psychology research at the University of Reading.

    • Week 3 simulations

      In this week's simulations, command a robot to do specific actions and to track a moving object.

    • Review and reflect

      Review what we've covered this week, before testing yourself with a short quiz.

  • Week 4

    Robot behaviours

    • Welcome to week 4.

      Find out what you will be learning in this final week.

    • Living systems

      What features do robots have in common with living systems?

    • Lights and Robot Behaviour

      Check out robot 'eyes', simple 'neurons' and responding to light.

    • Robot-to-robot interaction

      Explore how light and light sensors can be used to control robot-to-robot interaction and mimic examples of behaviour found in nature.

    • Instinct and learning

      Find out about the relationship between instinct and learning in nature and why it can be useful to devise a way for some robots to 'learn'.

    • Cooperation

      Ants, flocking and Craig Reynolds boids; this is where you'll look at examples of robot cooperation that mimic cooperative behaviour in living systems.

    • Simulations

      In this Week's simulations; define motor speeds to help ERIC navigate along the walls of a maze and define neurons for Braitenberg-type robots.

    • Time to Reflect

      Take some time to think about what you've learnt, what you've achieved and what's next.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

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 interested in robotics- you don’t need to own your own robot to take part! If you’ve always wanted to learn about robotics, robot design, or the history of robots, this is the course for you.

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?

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.

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

Who developed the course?

University of Reading

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

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