10 Secrets to mastering Robotics for beginners with no experience

Robots, robots, robots

It seems like everyday we hear how the world is shifting closer to the day where robot overlords will rule the earth. Automation is already in full swing from automated factories, to self driving cars, more crazy robots like restaurants with robot chefs, or Boston Robotic’s crazy humanoid robots that can do parkour.

Have you wanted to make your own robots?

Have you wanted to join the bandwagon and start making your own robots too? Well you have come to the right place. There are ton’s of people like you who want to learn robotics, but they are confused by the myriad of information out there, most of it is too complicated and not for absolute beginners. However, I have compiled a list of the best way to start robotics.

1. Learn Electronics

While not the core of robotics, this step is crucial to being able to understand how robot’s hardware works. Many people assume that they can just create robots by learning how to code and throwing together simple electronics, however, in reality electronics is a whole new universe. 

A college degree isn’t needed, just a simple understanding in electronics, signals/data transmission, wiring, sensors etc can help you take your skills to the next level. I recommend the book“Getting Started In Electronics by Forrest Mimms”. here is a book review for it. learn.adafruit.com is a great free resource for learning electronics.

Once you get a hold of some electronics, start building circuits. They can be as simple as lighting a LED light. After that wire some buttons to understand how buttons can complete a circuit and light a LED. Next make a traffic signal where only one side of the lights can be on/green at once. Building real circuits will teach you important concepts such as voltage, resistors, current, capacitance, series & parallel, transistors etc.

2. Learn Coding Fundamentals

If you have never written any code, and especially if you have 0 knowledge of hardware/electronics, you will want to purchase one of the following

Wonder Dash (Easiest):

The programming course built in is second to none and the robot is built with a wonderful personality and tons of sensors and programmable actions. Cons: You can’t customize the physical robot, it can’t be programmed on a laptop/computer(Only IOS or Android), and it is pricey.

Lego Mindstorms(Moderate-easy)

Fantastic product built around the Lego ecosystem. Great step up from the Wonder Dash Robot since you can physically build robots and choose which electronics to use(Sensors, motors etc.) Cons: Pricey, locked ecosystem

BBC Microbit(Moderate-easy)

My favourite platform. It isn’t as easy as the other 2 platforms mentioned but that’s because its more close to real world robotics. 

The other 2 platforms use proprietary coding environments that limit what you can do, and what knowledge you can carry over when you out-grow the platform. The MicroBit is also much smaller to use and has tons of built in sensors. Most importantly, you can attach real, consumer electronics to the GPIO pins. Lastly, it is a 10th of the price of the other 2 platforms.

The MicroBit is such a fantastic platform that I tailored a complete robotics for beginners course around the MicroBit.

If you want to learn & master the MicroBit, sign up for my FREE course “A-Z Robotics: Learn coding & electronics on MicroBit through fun projects.” Get access to the full course with 45 lectures, and over 5.5 hours of content by signing up down below.

A-Z Robotics Poster

3. Learn Advanced Coding

Once you master graphical coding ,you will have picked up strong computer sciecne principles and can start to learn more advanced text based languages used by computer scientists around the world.

Start with learning just one language. My recommendation is Python. Python is extremely easy to learn, versatile and can be used on Micro-controllers (Brains of robots) such as Raspberry Pi and MicroBit. Python sees applications ranging from data science to machine learning algorithms. Another alternate is C/C++ and Arduino

4. Program Micro-Controllers.

Using everything you’ve learn’t about hardware and programming, start building projects that integrate with Micro controllers. Microcontrollers allow you to give your robots life by integrating your code with your hardware such as sensors and motors.

Some great Micro-Controllers are

  1. MicroBit (Easy)
  2. Arduino (Intermediate)
  3. Raspberry Pi (intermediate-Advanced)

5. Read some books/Magazines

Books are an invaluable tool to quickly learn strong fundamentals.

Here are some must haves

6. Get a Kit

So you’ve outgrown platforms like Lego Mindstorms or the MicroBit and want to take the next step. Getting a kit is the perfect transition as one doesn’t need to worry about sourcing parts or compatibility issues between hardware. Here are some fantastic sources for kits:RobotShopBudget RoboticsLynxmotionRogue Robotics,Parallax.

7. Start with simple projects

Arguably the most important point of the article. Your first project will not topple Boston Dynamic’s Spot Dog Robot. More likely, your first project will probably break before you even finish it. My first few projects were so jank, they barely even worked while I was building them, let alone working reliably after I built them. Granted, you’re probably not the confused 12 year old I was. Resist creating a robot that will massage you while doing the dishes, and focus more on making a robot/ creation that solves a simple problem in your daily life that can be created by what you’ve already learnt.

Start with parts like simple motors, household materials like cardboard, sytrafoam, hotglue, etc.

8. Enter some sort of online contest or challenge

After a couple of builds, its time to join a contest! Look for contests in your local neighborhood, or online contests.

Contests are a great way to spark innovation and force you to think within the contest constraints. It also keeps you motivated and adds energy to the build process with the competition, deadlines, and prizes.

Instructables Contests are honestly some of the greatest online competitions as constantly post competitions every couple of weeks. The best part is that they keep changing the themes of their contests so you can always enter a competition that interests you want to join.

Don’t be disheartened if you loose. Enter the competition for the thrill and learning. I entered every Instructable I posted (Instrutables are build guides for projects) into a competition for 3-4 years before I finally, to my surprise won the grand prize for Amazon’s voice activated challenge.

Here are some alternative online robotics competitions. NASA robotics, VEX Robotics.

9. Share you’re experiences with others & Ask LOTS of questions

Make sure to share any projects and builds you make on the internet. Everyone learns faster and better when they share and Hey, that’s the reason I share these, tips, the world wants to hear about your fantastic creations and projects. At the very least, sharing online acts like a way for you to document your progress and personal growth. Sharing it online also forces you to make sure that you truly understand a concept before attempting to teach it to others.

Instructables.com is my favourite platform and I have nearly a quarter million views on it. The platform is full of friendly people and great resources to make your own projects. Heck you can even submit your article here. Just send us an email!

Subscribe to any mailing list (You can sign up for our mailing list down below) and newsletters related to your interests and find forums and Facebook groups for your projects as well. These are great places for you to share and clarify any doubts and questions you have.

Speaking of questions, never be too shy to ask questions. Questions are never stupid and will help you learn more than anything else. Asking questions shoes you’re actively trying to push the boundaries of your knowledge. If you can’t find a forum or group to post them on, you can always email us or comment down below. Remember, no question is stupid 🙂

10. Join a course

Hands down the most effective way is to join an online course where you are taught everything about robotics and which eliminates the guesswork involved in learning robotics. I have tailored a complete robotics for beginners course around the MicroBit. If you want to learn & master the MicroBit, sign up for my FREE course “A-Z Robotics: Learn coding & electronics on MicroBit through fun projects.” Get access to the full course with 45 lectures, and over 5.5 hours of content by signing up down below.

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