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Online course

Introducing Robotics: Build a Robot Arm

Design, build and program a simple robot and share it with other learners.

Introducing Robotics: Build a Robot Arm

This course is part of the Introducing Robotics program, which will enable you to gain the robotics skills that are needed today and in the future.

Here’s your chance to build a simple robot.

In this course, you’ll design, build and program a simple robot that can carry a pen or pencil and draw a coordinated line on a sheet of a paper. There are many ways you could build such a robot and that will depend on your skill level, your budget, or what equipment you can source.

You will bring together a number of skills, such as mechanical design and software development. You will generate a trajectory of points for the robot to move on a worksheet, and test and adjust the software to improve your robot’s performance. You will then submit a video of your completed robot for peer review.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsThe 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

When would you like to start?

  • Available now

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 project is an exciting opportunity to apply mathematical, algorithmic and control principles of robot arm manipulators, so you’ll need to understand these principles before starting. This includes concepts from advanced high-school mathematics or engineering, especially analytic geometry and linear algebra. That is, you need to know about points, vectors, matrices, matrix-vector and matrix-matrix multiplication and linear transformations.

You’ll find the prerequisite knowledge and skills to build your robot in Introducing Robotics: Making Robots Move. Enrol now to check that you’re familiar with the concepts.

If you wish to build a robot arm, you will need access to robotic kits or components. Before you buy any equipment, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss different build options with your peers and the teaching team. If you’re not able to source equipment though, you can still learn the build principles in this course.

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?

Peter Corke

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.

James Sergeant

PhD Candidate with the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision researching towards robust visual object recognition to facilitate useful robotic tasks.

Edward Pepperell

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

Obadiah Lam

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.

Who developed the course?

QUT is a leading Australian university ranked in the top 2% of universities worldwide by the 2015-16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Located in Brisbane, it attracts 47,000 students.

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