As robots gain more and more capabilities, they will play an increasingly prominent part in our everyday lives. Robotics is an area of technology seeing unprecedented growth.
The Introducing Robotics program from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is made up of three online courses that build from theory to practice.
You’ll begin by exploring how we’re using robots to help solve big challenges in our society today, before considering what the future might hold for humans and robots alike.
You’ll become familiar with the mathematical knowledge and programming skills required to make robots move, and you’ll try out your skills in practical exercises.
Finally - you’ll put your skills into practice by building your own robot. You’ll design, build and program a simple robot arm, and you’ll be invited to share a video of your robot with learners around the world.
Accessible for free on desktop, tablet or mobile and delivered in bite-sized chunks, the courses provide a flexible way to develop your understanding of robotics.
When you complete all three courses and earn a Certificate of Achievement for each, you will receive a FutureLearn Award as proof of completing the program of study.
Courses under this program: Course 1: Introducing Robotics: Robotics and Society -How do you feel about robots? Learn how robots are used today and explore how they might help solve the big issues of our time.
Course 2: Introducing Robotics: Making Robots Move -The world needs people who understand how to get robots moving.
Course 3: Introducing Robotics: Build a Robot Arm -Design, build and program a simple robot and share it with other learners.
Discover how we use robots now and into the future.
Once only found in fiction, robots are being applied in an increasing array of ways in society, from mechanisation of industrial tasks to exploring places humans can’t go. This course starts with your perceptions of robotics, describes different types of robots, and leads into a discussion of the future: knowing we can use robots, should we? We then use case studies to show how robotics is being applied to help solve key issues facing society today: food production, aging populations, transport, and environmental change.
This course is for anyone interested in discovering how our society currently uses robots and how we might use them to solve big challenges in the future. You don’t need any robotics knowledge or experience to join in this course.
Everything you need to succeed in this course is provided. There is no specific equipment or software required.
Making robots move requires both mathematical knowledge and programming skills. We begin with the problem of describing where things are in the world. Starting simply, we consider objects in a two-dimensional plane, exploring the concepts of position, pose, rotation, and translation.
Robot movement relies on the principles of kinematics – the motion of a body or bodies. You’ll program forward kinematics equations in MATLAB and learn approaches to inverse kinematics.
We examine types of motion in 2D, and dive into some principles of joint control theory. We finish with a taste of 3D robotics!
This course assumes that you are familiar with concepts from advanced high-school mathematics or engineering; in particular, analytic geometry and linear algebra (including points, vectors, matrices, matrix-vector and matrix-matrix multiplication, and linear transformations).
You’ll also need to know how to program in MATLAB to complete the practical exercises. You won’t need to download the MATLAB software to complete this course (unless you already have it and wish to use it), as you will be linked directly into an online version of MATLAB through FutureLearn.
Everything you need to succeed in this course is provided, or can be downloaded for free. If you’d like to attempt the exercises throughout this course, you will be using a program called MATLAB. With support from MathWorks, free access to MATLAB will be provided for the duration of the course plus 30 days.
All exercises are embedded in the course, so you don’t need to have MATLAB to participate.
However, if you’d like to follow along with Professor Corke’s MATLAB demonstrations, work on the exercises, or explore topics on your own, MathWorks has provided a licence for MATLAB Online for this course. We will guide you through the setup of MATLAB and the Robotics Toolbox at the beginning of the course. The use of MATLAB is what will really give you a powerful learning experience, letting you try out the exercises and examples provided.
If you have not used MATLAB before, and would like to take a two-hour introductory course, please check out the MATLAB Academy’s MATLAB Onramp course. This covers the MATLAB basics with walk-through activities. This is an optional activity.
Robotics is all about integrating hardware and software. In this course, you’ll design, build and program a simple robot, with at least two joints, that can carry a pen or pencil and draw a coordinated line on a sheet of a paper. There are lots of ways you could actually build such a robot and that will depend on your skill level, your budget, or what equipment you can source.
You may find the project challenging. You’ll need to bring together a number of skills, such as mechanical design and software development. The software needs to implement kinematic algorithms as well as communicate with sensors and motors. You will need to generate a trajectory of points for the robot to move on the worksheet and test and adjust the software to improve your robot’s performance. At the end of the course, you’ll be invited to submit a video of your completed robot for peer review.
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.
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.
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.