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Introduction to Robotics: How to Build a Robot Arm

Learn how to design, build, and program a simple robot with this course from the Queensland University of Technology.

25,038 enrolled on this course

Woman adjusts robot arm in laboratory
  • Duration

    5 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Join the fascinating world of robotics and learn how to build a robot

The best way to learn is to put your knowledge into practice. On this five-week practical course, you’ll have the opportunity to build your very own robot.

From sourcing the equipment to programming your robot to move, you’ll be guided through each stage of the process.

Robotics is all about integrating hardware and software. You’ll learn how you can build a simple physical robot, and create the software to allow it to perform the useful task of carrying a pen and drawing a coordinated line on a sheet of paper.

Bring your skills of mechanical design and software development together

The project will help you put your knowledge of robotics and mathematics to use, and also bring together a number of skills including programming, mechanical design, and software development.

You’ll learn how to ensure the software implements kinematic algorithms as well as communicating with sensors and motors to get your robot moving.

You’ll also discover how to generate a trajectory of points for the robot to move on the worksheet, and how to test and adjust the software to improve your robot’s performance.

Build your programming skills with QUT

At the end of the course, you’ll be invited to submit a video of your completed robot for peer review. Enjoy sharing your robot design and the way your robot works with other learners all around the world.

Though you may find aspects of this course challenging, it’s a rewarding way to put your knowledge into practice and enter the world of robotics.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds The best way to learn anything is to try and do it. Here’s your chance to build your very own robot. In this very practical course, you will build a simple physical robot, and create the software to allow it to perform a useful task. Your challenge is to create a simple robot that can can draw lines on a sheet of paper. You’ll put your knowledge of robotics and mathematics to use, and also exercise your programming skills. You’ll enjoy sharing your robot design and the way your robot works with other learners all around the world. I’m Professor Peter Corke, please join me in this exciting challenge of creating a robot arm.

What topics will you cover?

Build your robot arm:

  • Sourcing the equipment
  • Connecting to the brick
  • Moving the motors
  • Braking modes

Configuration and design:

  • Joint types
  • Key design decisions
  • Connecting structure and gears

Move and test your robot arm:

  • Robot design tips
  • Developing kinematics equations in MATLAB
  • Moving your robot to a point
  • Joint movement
  • Improving movement performance

Assess your robot (optional):

  • Filming your robot arm
  • Submitting your video for peer assessment
  • Assessing other learners’ videos

Learning on this course

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...

  • Apply mathematical, algorithmic and control principles of robot arm manipulators
  • Produce a working robot through physical construction and software development

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for those who have completed the other courses in the Introducing Robotics ExpertTrack.

If you can’t buy the equipment, you will still find the course useful as you learn the build principles.

What software or tools do you need?

In this course, we demonstrate the build principles using the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT kit. While this kit is no longer produced, you can complete the project using a variety of technologies.

How you build your robot depends on what resources you have access to. You might choose to purchase a robotics development kit or borrow hobby robot components. You’ll need a 64-bit computer to install the MATLAB software and a software toolbox to control your robot. With support from MathWorks, free access to MATLAB will be provided for the duration of the course plus 30 days.

The software you need to program your robot depends on the hardware you choose to use. For example, you might choose a LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 kit, together with the MATLAB LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Support Package. If you are more experienced, you might choose to use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, together with their relevant MATLAB Support Packages. We encourage you to discuss your build options with your peers and the teaching team before sourcing them.

Who will you learn with?

Professor of Robotic Vision at QUT and Director of the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (ACRV). Peter is also an IEEE fellow and on the editorial board of several robotics research journals.

Dr Pepperell completed his PhD in robotic vision at QUT in 2016, with a research focus in vision-based place recognition.

Hello! I'm Obadiah, a sessional academic at Queensland University of Technology. I've taught robotics and control engineering courses and MOOCs, and have worked as a robotic vision researcher at QUT.

Hello! I'm Dorian, a PhD Researcher with the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision researching computational imaging and light field cameras for more robust robotic vision with transparent objects.

Who developed the course?

Queensland University of Technology

QUT is a leading Australian university ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide by the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Located in Brisbane, it attracts over 50,000 students.

  • Established

  • Location

    Brisbane, Australia
  • World ranking

    Top 180Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019

Endorsers and supporters

content provided by

Australian Centre for Robotic Vision

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Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

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  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
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Map your progress

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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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