By the end of this article, you’ll have seven actionable tips to get started with robotics, today!
It doesn’t matter which tip you pick. Just pick one and try it out! You can always pick another tip later. The best part of it all is that there’s no wrong answer.
One of the best books ever, The Power of Now, sets the stage on this perfectly. If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend picking up a copy.
The reality is, if you wait for the perfect time to start something new, you’ll be waiting forever.
There’s never a perfect time.
Everyone is a beginner at some point. It’s okay to make mistakes. You’re not going to be “great” at robotics when you first start. No one is.
New skills take time. But that’s kind of the point.
Reasons You Shouldn’t Start a Robotics Hobby
Robotics is very overwhelming. There are so many topics you need to know, and so many “unknown unknowns.”
The things you don’t know you need to know won’t become apparent until you need to know them!
And, that’s okay!
I know this is an article about helping you get started with your robotics hobby, but I wanted to make it blatantly clear what robotics is.
You know, before you get your heart set on designing the next moon rover, only to find out that there’s a ton of math and coding involved.
You have to be interested and determined to start a robotics hobby.
But it’s also very satisfying. Nothing beats the feeling of solving a problem or getting the motors spinning for the first time.
Anyone who’s a “tinkerer” by nature knows what I’m talking about.
It just feels good to accomplish something. And that’s why people have robotics hobbies, to begin with.
The Secret to Start a Robotics Hobby
I’m also going to let you in on a secret.
There’s no right way to start your robotics hobby.
There. I said it.
I always tell people to start in the robotics field based on what they’re interested in.
- Do you like coding?
- Do you want to build the next R2-D2?
- Do you have a device you want to make?
Think about what piqued your interest in the robotics field. Then, while you’re reading these tips, see which points make the most sense to help you get started!
1. Pick out a Robot or Project to Build
The first tip is to find a cool project and start building it. I find that I learn the most when I just dive right in!
You can get any number of robotics kits (we have one, too), but if you want more of a “hacker” experience, there are a bunch of cool options on Amazon.
You will need some basic hand tools, but other than that, the best way to build something is to just build it.
2. Take an Online Robotics Course
If you’re not the kind of person who wants to “get your hands dirty” and would rather have a more logical approach to getting started, then you can take online robotics courses.
We have two online courses that are designed for beginners with little to no experience in robotics.
The first course, Arduino for Beginners, is designed to teach you the fundamentals of coding and circuits. You’ll walk away with a functional device that you coded from start to finish!
The second course, Build Arduino Robots, will show you how to interface motors and sensors to design an autonomous mobile robot. Again, our courses are designed to walk you through the process, so you’ll be building, wiring, and coding everything from scratch.
Our courses use the Learn Robotics Alpha Kit, which includes all of the components you need to get started. It takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out which parts are compatible and where to buy them.
You can pick up a kit, join the courses, and start gaining robotics skills in a matter of a few days.
Plus, when you have questions, you can contact me directly (via our live chat system), and I’m here to help.
There’s nothing better than being able to interact with an instructor while you’re learning. And, robotics is a very hair-pulling subject. So, I try to minimize hair-loss (lol) while you’re taking our courses!
If you’ve already built a bunch of robots before, (I’m not sure why you’re reading this article), then you might be interested in taking an intermediate or advanced online course.
3. Learn to Code
Thirdly, it’s very helpful if you know some form of programming before starting with robotics.
If you know you want to be writing sophisticated algorithms for mechatronic systems, then you’ll want to learn to code first.
There are two coding languages that I recommend every robotics engineer learns. The first language is Python and the second is C++. You’ll probably learn C somewhere in there too if you work with embedded controllers and/or Arduino microcontrollers.
How to Learn Coding Online
Learn, practice, and apply job-ready skills using Codecademy. This is a great option if you’re looking for interactive coding lessons and daily practice.
Additionally, there are a few Nanodegree programs on Udacity that are great choices if you want more of a course-led program. More specifically, I recommend looking into the Intro to Programming Nanodegree and the C++ Nanodegree.
Finally, if you’re enrolled in Coursera Plus or have used Coursera, I recommend Python for Everybody and the Accelerated Computer Science Fundamentals Specialization.
Coding for Industrial Robots
On the other hand, if you want to work with Industrial Robots and PLCs, I recommend learning the basics of Ladder Logic.
There are some great Udemy courses you can take if you know what platform your shop is going to use.
Here are the Industrial Automation courses I recommend:
A lot of Industrial Robot manufacturers (FANUC, KUKA, Universal Robots, etc.) also have online training programs you can take. Universal Robots has a very comprehensive, free training, that you can take online.
4. Create a Prototype
Additionally, you can create your prototypes.
Combine 3D printing with some basic robotics skills, and the possibilities are endless.
If you have a device you want to make, then learning to make prototypes can be very beneficial. You’ll still need to learn the basics of coding and electronics, but designing robots and printing them out is also a lot of fun!
5. Read Robotics Articles
Maybe you’re looking for a more passive way to get into the robotics field. If you’re interested in learning about robots without building anything, then reading articles is a good way to ease into the field.
Besides all of the articles on Learn Robotics, here are some additional robotics sites that you can check out:
If you’re more of a “book” person, here are a few options:
Depending on your level and interests, some of these books might be too easy or too advanced.
I wanted to give you a mix of beginner and university-level options so that you have the best starting point for your skillset.
6. Join a Robotics Group
If you’re looking to get into robotics more socially, then joining a robotics group is a great option.
A lot of robotics people I know are very introverted by nature. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join a robotics team or group.
Oftentimes professional organizations, local groups, and communities will host robotics and tech events. They might be regular meetups, clubs, or competitive robotics teams.
There are even robotics groups on Facebook that you can join. You can join the Learn Robotics Facebook group, here.
It’s a great way to collaborate with like-minded individuals who are working on their projects. When you join a robotics group, you’re not only gaining technical skills. You’re also expanding your network, which can lead to future career opportunities.
The best way to find robotics groups is to search on Meetup, Eventbrite, or Facebook within your city.
If there isn’t a group already there, you can always start one!
7. Just Start a Robotics Hobby, Already!
It doesn’t matter which of these steps you choose to start your robotics hobby. All that matters is that you start!
Regardless of if you’re interested in building robots or gaining technical insight, you won’t make progress unless you take that first step.
Take a look at the list above and see if any of these tips speak to you.
- Have a project you’ve been putting off? Buy the parts for it.
- Not sure where to start? If you’re completely new, sign up for Arduino for Beginners. If you have some coding experience, take Build Arduino Robots.
- Is there a robotics book that’s collecting dust on your shelf? Go get it and read 10 pages!
- Have a friend who’s crazy about robotics? Give them a call!
- Want to join a robotics team? Read this article.
There are so many ways you can weave robotics into your life. All you have to do is just take the first steps and get started!
What’s holding you back? Are you ready to begin your robotics hobby?
Which of these tips are you going to use to break into the robotics field? Let me know in the comments below!
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