Learn robotics by exploring their history, anatomy and intelligence and test drive robots using exciting simulations.

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Begin Robotics
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    4 weeks
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    3 hours
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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 forms do robots take today? How do they achieve particular tasks? And how is our relationship with them evolving? In this introduction to robotics course, you’ll explore answers to these questions and more.

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 key components 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. You’ll command ERIC to explore its environment avoiding obstacles, follow a line, and act like a Braitenberg vehicle.

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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?

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

  • Available now

Learning on this course

If you'd like to take part while our educators are leading the course, they'll be joining the discussions, in the comments, between these dates:

  • 17 Jan 2022 - 13 Feb 2022

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...

  • Reflect on the wide variety of robots and their applications.
  • Explain how a robot moves, senses and responds to its environment using motors, sensors and actuators.
  • Demonstrate the various ways robots are controlled by humans through automation, haptic technologies and virtual reality.
  • Compare robot behaviour, cooperation and learning with that of living systems.
  • Practise the skills developed on the course through simulations that allow you to experiment, explore and test your knowledge.

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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