Welcome to Robotics 101. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re someone who’s interested in running a Robotics 101 course to spread knowledge about programming, electronics and robotics! We hope the resources and guidance we’ve put together here will be useful, and if you have any further questions or feedback I direct you to the contact page.
We do intend the course to be organised by people with experience of electronics and basic programming. There’s nothing too challenging in here, but we strongly recommend that you do build a 101 robot from scratch yourself before teaching the course so you know the difficulties involved.
License and Attribution
tl; dr - we are glad that you like the course. Please attribute “Imperial College Robotics Society (ICRS)”, and optionally links to icrs.io and 101.icrs.io when you use any of the course contents.
ICRS 101 is licensed under Creative Commons By 4.0. The contents are licensed under conditions states in the LICENSE file on github. For an overview of the license, you can view creative common’s overview of the license. Should there be any inconsistency in the information in the two links above, information in the LICENSE file takes precedence.
Attribution should be made directly to Imperial College Robotics Society (ICRS). A link to icrs.io and / or 101.icrs.io is recommended, but not mandatory.
Space and Equipment
The first thing to think about when you want to run 101 is what space you want to teach it in. This can be anything from a full-on electronics lab to just a classroom. We have designed the course so there’s no use of power tools during the lessons - any soldering is done before-hand. That being said, there are some minor hand tools that are needed for the course:
- During the first lesson, for chassis assembly, some screwdrivers will be needed. Either + or -, depending on which screws you buy
- Small files
- For filing down the chassis if it’s slightly off due to the acrylic (see lesson 1 for more)
- Cheap ones are OK (and probably a good idea, based on how frequently they get lost!), but it’s helpful to have a continuity buzzer
- You will need about 1 per 5 attendees (~1 per table)
- Wire cutters/stripper
- Figure out what works well for you - we’ve had bad luck with the gun shaped ones breaking and now use these sort of things
- Need about 1 per 3 attendees (~2 per table)
- Soldering iron
- For pre-preparation
- We don’t recommend doing any soldering during the course, we recommend that the organisers pre-solder anything
Timings for lessons
We teach our courses as five 2-hour sessions, one each week for 5 weeks. However, that is with university level students (albeit from a variety of faculties). You may need to allow flexibility of adding an extra session at the end, depending on the skill level of attendees.
The last hour of the final session is given over to an informal competition.
We also have extra drop-in sessions midweek where people can catch up if they had to miss a session, fell behind, or just want to try something different.
It might be possible to run Robotics 101 as a weekend session over 2 full days. The total number of hours should work out pretty well (e.g. 10-13, 2-4:30 on Saturday and Sunday).
Tea breaks are important - we have one in the middle of each two hour class to provide drinks and snacks.
We sell 20 tickets for our courses, each of them for £20. However, you may wish to charge slightly more or slightly less depending on your funding situation. We make sure to mention that this £20 fee is for teaching, and does not get you the robot at the end. We offer people the ability to buy their robot at the end of the course for around £15. We find this a nice balance, because it means that students who are keen can keep using their robot, and students who are less interested don’t end up with it sitting unused on a shelf.
You may be able to use a platform like Eventbrite to manage ticket sales, or you may use your own preferred platform. Alternatively, something like a Google Form with a note for people to bring cash on the first session would work.
Instructors and space layout
The course leader exists to coordinate the entire course and ensure that everything remains on track. We then have one leader per table (the ‘table leaders’). When we run the course at Imperial with 20 attendees, we have 3 tables, each with around 6-8 people on it.
This means that we teach with 4 instructors. Sometimes we have a helper as well, to assist with distribution of components during the first week, etc.
For teaching, we find that for the more technical points its more helpful for the course leader to speak to each table group individually rather than the whole class. This allows for a more friendly discussion based atmosphere for the 5 minutes the leader is talking to them. We facilitate this with a screen/monitor at the front of the classroom that we’ll invite the students from one table up to. The leader uses this screen for explaining some concepts. Once they’re done, we move onto another table until all have been taught.
Preparation before course
In addition to our recommendation of following the course yourself and building an entire robot, there are some other things that you need to do.
- Purchase all the components (link is below), and check they’ve arrived and are working
- Laser cut the chassis, using the CAD file here (designed for 600x300mm laser bed, but editable for others)
- Flash the SD cards
- Soldering Raspberry Pi Zeros
- Single 1x40 header, on the side next to the edge
- Soldering motors
- Two per robot, plus some spares.
- Remember to put wire through hole in motor before soldering for strength
The list of components required with recommended UK suppliers can be found in this spreadsheet.