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How Learn Robotics became Learn Robotics
The goal of Learn Robotics is simple: help as many people Learn Robotics, regardless of skill level.
My personal mission is to help over 1 Million people gain programming, electronics, and mechanical skills through comprehensive blog posts, online courses, and entertaining tutorials.
It’s a very lofty goal, but I’m up for the challenge.
You might be wondering who I am and what background I have to even teach robotics in the first place. (Click here to Read About Me.)
Before I talk about myself and Learn Robotics, I want to ask if YOU can relate to any of these scenarios:
- Excited about STEM education topics but you have no clue where to start;
- Interested in building a prototype for a new business idea/hobby project/side hustle but you don’t have a background in robotics;
- Wanting to promote the tech field to yourself, your kids, your friends, etc. and would like them to work directly with a mentor;
- Tired of just ‘copy and pasting’ solutions to your coding/robotics/engineering homework because your professor sucks;
- Trying to get a promotion in your current automation/controls/robotics job but you’re not sure what skills to learn next;
- Planning to complete a degree in robotics and have no clue how to find a job or what you can even do with a robotics degree; or
- Bored with your current hobbies and heard about robots and want to start learning on your own.
Because if so, then you’ve come to the right place.
I also strive to be as open and honest with you as possible. And let’s just face it: Robotics is a TOUGH field to be in. You have to know A LOT. And unlike some fields where the “results may vary,” there is a RIGHT and a WRONG way to do things.
But, if you’re willing to put in the work and I haven’t scared you away, let’s take a quick jump back to early 2017.
The Story of Learn Robotics
In January 2017, I was invited to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to meet with a Chinese robotics company.
And they say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
But I was there for business, not pleasure, so I feel a little better sharing this story with you.
The intent was “mingle” and see if there was a business opportunity to work for them. Needless to say, I was in the middle of finishing up my Leadership Training Rotation for a Fortune 500 company, so I wasn’t quite ready to jump into a new role, but I was keeping my options open for post-program career moves.
You know how these interview meeting things go. You think you’re doing great, but in reality, you have no clue if the meeting is going well or if people are just being nice. I didn’t know if the company had an open role, or if they even wanted to hire me. But I was doing my best to be enthusiastic and interested in the potential opportunity. After chatting with some of the employees at CES, I had this random idea of using their robotics kits to host workshops around the country. They were trying to enter the US market, and I figured this could be an interesting marketing tactic.
I thought it sounded like an awesome idea. Don’t you think? Well, they hated it.
And you’re probably thinking, well that’s a bummer. What does this have to do with Learn Robotics? And this is where the story actually gets good. I loved the concept so much, that I created a weekend event called Learn Robotics with Liz. Cool name, right?
It was hosted on a chilly Saturday in February in the meeting room at my Indianapolis apartment complex. Everyone starts somewhere! I created my own kits for the course and, while I thought they came out pretty good, they were actually very janky.
At the time, there weren’t many options for super affordable robotics kits that were actually good. But, this is what I engineered, and they served their purpose.
The first robotics class came and went. I had a whopping 3 students in attendance and enough food and snacks for an army of people. But, I was thrilled with the turnout and it was good enough for me to keep going.
The next few months were a big blur. I transitioned from doing live classes to documenting robotics projects online. I was writing what would become the Learn Robotics Blog but didn’t know it at the time.
Spring 2017: Learn Robotics now has a Blog
In my spare time, I kept writing articles about various topics in robotics to eventually build a community. This was all while working a crazy shift schedule as a Manufacturing Engineer for one of the most volatile plants in the country.
But I was determined to continue turning Learn Robotics into an online hub for robotics content.
How Learn Robotics is Different
What makes Learn Robotics different is that a lot of tech sites make you feel “stupid” if you don’t have a technical background. You don’t have to be an engineer to try the projects or take the courses. And if you are an engineering student, Learn Robotics is the place to ask questions, without feeling dumb.
I designed Learn Robotics as a welcoming online hub that anyone could use.
Dads. Moms. Engineering students. Music majors. Grandpa Joe. Second-grade teachers. Really, everyone.
I was tired of the presumptuous tone that comes along with a lot of online engineering and technical websites.
The fact is, it’s OKAY to not know something.
What’s NOT OKAY is:
1) Pretending like you know something you don’t know; and,
2) Not asking questions because you’re afraid they’re stupid.
Learn Robotics is designed to break down topics in an easy-to-remember way so that you learn the topic once and can apply it as you need to.
But, I digress from the main story.
Fall 2017: Learn Robotics Studio is Born
After finishing up the Leadership Program in 2017, I moved to Columbus, GA for a full-time Automation Engineering role. I was responsible for the design, support, and upgrades for all of the robotic production cells.
Simultaneously, I was working on growing the Learn Robotics blog, and eventually, built the first Learn Robotics Studio in my apartment.
In addition to writing content, I brought back the original weekend robotics classes. Teaching has always been something I’ve enjoyed, but teaching to have a global impact is next to impossible, so, I decided to move my original classes online.
Fall 2018: First Learn Robotics Online Class is Launched
The first class I launched online was the Arduino for Beginners course. It’s designed for people who want to build their own projects using Arduino. The course is based around building a project, so you’ll pick up the top 20% of skills that will get you comfortable working just about any project with Arduino. Consider it the only Arduino course you’ll ever need.
In addition to Arduino for Beginners, I moved my original robotics course into an online format. It’s called Build Arduino Robots. Students can learn how to build real robots at their own pace, and on their own schedule.
2019 and Beyond: Where Learn Robotics is Headed
Flash forward to today, and, I’m running Learn Robotics out of my condo in sunny Southwest Florida.
It’s late 2019, and Learn Robotics hosts tens of thousands of global visitors every month.
Some fast-facts for you, mostly because they’re interesting:
- We’ve had over 140 unique visitors on in an hour.
- I taught a multi-hour training course to over 75 STEM Educators.
- Learn Robotics Blog pages have been translated to over 10 unique languages.
- There are over 50 students enrolled in our online courses.
- We’ve even had users from every country visit the Learn Robotics site.
- I’ve hosted robotics classes at Girl Scout Meetings, Schools, and Coffee Shops.
- I still teach impromptu community robotics classes.
- You can contact me if you’d like to host a class.
And the plan for 2020 is to take things to the next level. Yet again.
My goal next year is to help hundreds of thousands of people globally Learn Robotics.
Are you ready to join me?
That means more quality blog content, engaging video tutorials, and improvements to the courses. There are also so many more plans I can’t wait to share with you. Finally, I’m proud to say that Learn Robotics is one of the top robotics websites in the world.
So, if you’re new to robotics, head on over to our blog. Poke around. And see if robotics is for you. If you like what you see, be sure to join our Facebook Group or say hi on Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube).
Thanks for stopping by and reading our story! And, if you have any questions, I’m here to help.
Meet Liz Miller, the Brains Behind Learn Robotics
There are many teachers on the Internet, so I’m not surprised that you’re curious about what my background is or what qualifies me to teach robotics online.
I can assure you, I’m a real person with actual robotics engineering experience.
But, I won’t just declare that. You know the story of Learn Robotics, so let me tell you my story.
As I write this from my condo in Southwest Florida, I’m thinking back to the first time I worked on a robot.
Like a lot of “robotics” people, I started building robots when I was 15. But not because I was interested in Sci-Fi or robots or anything like that. Robotics just crossed my path. I was on my way to the bathroom at school and saw a sign on the bathroom door. Kind of funny, right? The sign looked like this one.
iPhones weren’t a thing then, so I didn’t capture a photo.
I was curious about robots and how they were programmed. So I begged my parents to let me go to the weekend robotics meeting. Turns out that meeting would end up being a turning point in my career. So much for Law School. (Sorry Mom!)
But, back to that weekend robotics club.
We learned to programmed robots for a competition in Los Angeles. This was before the FIRST and VEX robotics teams, so I like to think I was into robotics before it became trendy.
In high school, I was hired as a Robotics Teacher for elementary and middle school students during the summer. This is also around the time I placed Second Honors in the Connecticut Science Fair for my invention of the “SnowBot.” Growing up in Northern Connecticut, I hated snow and wanted to put my robotics skills to the test.
Then, I applied and went to college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where I studied Robotics Engineering. I won’t sugar-coat it. Engineering school was HARD. There were many hair-pulling nights and a lot of frustration, but I enjoyed the challenge.
I was the classic “Type-A” student, so I had robotics internships right from the start.
My first summer internship was at UPenn. I was accepted into the GRASP REU (Research Experience for Undergrads) where I studied material properties for Quadrotor Frames.
I had the awesome experience working in Professor Vijay Kumar’s lab, which has been featured on a number of popular tech websites.
After sophomore year, I took a summer teaching job at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (yes, the MIT) where I taught robotics prep classes to high school students.
The weeks were long, but my students were wicked smart. I like to think they got that from me!
Then, in my junior year, I took an 8-month Co-Op with Pratt & Whitney. I worked in the Verification & Validation and Engine Controls groups working on various FAA certification test for the A320neo. And yes, I did get to witness a bird-strike and fan-blade-out (FBO) test. Pretty cool stuff if I don’t say so, myself!
Flash forward to 2015, and I received my Bachelor of Science in Robotics Engineering (and an awesome 3.8 GPA, woohoo!). After graduating, I joined a Leadership Training Program for a Top 50 Fortune 500 company, where I spent time working in Quality, Supply Chain, and Manufacturing. In most of my automation roles, I was able to manage multi-million dollar automation cells that are responsible for producing items we use daily.
This is one of the first robotic workcells that I installed in my Manufacturing Job. The purpose is to pick and place components and perform a stationary drilling process. I think it’s a pretty badass accomplishment.
My Robotics Skills
Some of my other robotics skills include:
- Programming Industrial Robots (FANUC, Universal Robots, KUKA, Yaskawa);
- Writing controls code for PLCs (Allen-Bradley and Siemens);
- Building and using 3D printers (Anet A8);
- Prototyping with and Teaching Arduino and Raspberry Pi; and
- Solving autonomous challenges with mobile robots.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it should paint a good picture of the types of robotics things I’ve worked on.
Now that you know about me, let’s talk about YOU.
If you’re looking to get into robotics, or you’re already in this space and need a little help, I’m here for you.
Ready to take the next step?
Check out my online courses!
Or, work with me individually, one-on-one.
Good luck with your Robotics Journey!
Liz Miller, Creator of Learn Robotics