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A Free Project Guide for Robotics and Engineering

Are you interested in learning about robotics and engineering for your future career path or even just as a hobby? While robotics isn’t easy to learn, it can offer lots of rewarding challenges and is a great career path to pursue. Robotics is expected to play a major role in the future of health care, manufacturing, business, education, transportation, entertainment, and other industries that society relies on. This field is becoming increasingly important to our world, and advancements in robotics will only continue to grow, making it a great field in which to pursue a career.

When you first start to learn robotics, it can be expensive, since a fair amount of technical equipment is necessary to complete robotics projects. We put together this free project guide for robotics and engineering to help you get started on the path to a robotics career or hobby without the hindrance of high initial costs. These free resources include where to find equipment, tutorials, and reading materials to learn robotics. You’ll also find robotics organizations, conferences, and even competitions where you can show off your new skills. If you’re looking to earn a degree in robotics we’ve even included some of the best university programs for robotics and scholarships that can help you to save money while pursuing a robotics degree. Robotics are the future: Will you be part of it?

Equipment Sources for Robotics

people receiving equipment to build robots

While robotics is a worthy field to pursue, it can also be an expensive hobby or career to get into. The equipment needed to complete robotics projects can be pricey, but some wonderful organizations have stepped up to offer free equipment, educational tools, and even grants to further a school or individual’s robotics goals.

  • Robotics for All — This non-profit strives to provide educational opportunities for all students, with the goal of giving students from low-income communities access to a quality STEM education. The organization provides students cost-free educational resources in the STEM fields, with an emphasis on programming. The program includes 12 levels of curriculum for K-8 students.
  • UBTECH Education Early Innovator Grant — Recipients of UBTECH’s grant will receive their UKIT robotics kits for free as well as free virtual professional development throughout the program. The program launched in 2019 and has already awarded more than 300 robotics kits to schools across the United States.
  • VEX Robotics Funding Sources — This is a great place to start if you’re in need of funding for the VEX 123 or VEX GO childhood robotics programs. You’ll also find funding opportunities for their annual VEX IQ or V5 robotics competitions. It includes federal and foundation funding sources for both the U.S. and the U.K.
  • The Public Library — another option to look into for free robotics equipment and kits is your local public library! Many public libraries receive donations of educational materials to lend out, and equipment for robotics or STEM is no exception.

Projects and Tutorials for Robotics

person building a robot

You have the robotics tools you need; now what? As they say, practice makes perfect, and that definitely applies to learning how to build a robot. Thankfully, there are plenty of tutorials and robotics projects available to teach you and keep you busy. We’ve shared a couple of great options for robotics channels on YouTube, but look into the many robotics videos all over YouTube if you’re looking for a specific robotics tutorial.

  • NASA Mission to Mars Student Challenge is the perfect project to get students interested in space and the science behind how we’re able to explore other planets using robotics. It challenges students to learn about STEM and then plan, design, launch, and land their own mission to Mars through guided education plans, resources from NASA, and tips from the experts.
  • Skyfi Labs Free Robotics Project Ideas includes more than 20 free robotics projects that cover a variety of applications. Some of the projects they offer include a surveillance robot, sensor-guided robotics, a maze-solver robot, voice-controlled and Wi-Fi-controlled robots, and even a firefighting robot.
  • Robotics Projects for Engineering Students is a YouTube video that includes step-by-step instructions for six different types of robots. Some of the options include a rough terrain robot, a Google Assistant robot, and a mind-controlled robot. These Raspberry Pi Arduino projects for beginners are easy to follow and fun to implement.
  • STEM Project Hub is a great place for students and hobbyists of all levels to enhance their STEM learning skills through electronics, programming, IoT, and robotics-based projects and tutorials.
  • Arduino Projects and Robotics Tutorials is a popular YouTube channel where you can learn cool Arduino projects like how to build robots, home automation systems, and other hobby electronics. The channel includes a wide variety of projects and tutorials using the latest boards and technology.
  • Top Free Tutorials to Learn ROS shares some of the best free video tutorials on YouTube if you want to to learn about Robot Operating Systems. Theses video tutorials are easy to follow along with and are meant for beginners and beyond.
  • IRobot Education Learning Library offers hours of STEM and coding activities that will help build your basic knowledge of robotics. It includes lessons and activities for those in pre-K through advanced high-schoolers and hobbyists.

Robotics Journals, Magazines, and Internet Publications

Keep up to date on the newest advances in robotics by reading journals, magazines, and Internet publications put together and written by experts in the field. These are great resources to stay in the know on any robotics news, events, or cool new technology in the field.

Journals

  • The International Journal of Robotics Research was the first scholarly publication on robotics research and has been a leading journal in the robotics field for more than 20 years. This robotics journal includes peer-reviewed original research papers and articles, reviews, and editorials that cover a wide range of robotics topics. Select articles are free to readers.
  • Journal of Robotics includes original research articles and review articles that cover all aspects of automated mechanical devices. It has open access, and all articles are immediately available to read upon publication.
  • IEEE Transactions on Robotics is a robotics journal that publishes fundamental papers on all aspects of robotics, with a special emphasis on intelligent machines and systems for unstructured environments. Some, but not all, of the issues are free to read.
  • MDPI Robotics is a peer-reviewed, international journal that includes state-of-the-art research in the area of robotics. It is published quarterly by Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) and has open access, making it free for readers.
  • Science Robotics is an open-access journal that acts as a central forum for the latest advances as well as the social, ethical, and policy issues that come with the robotics field.

Magazines

  • Robotics and Automation Magazine, published by IEEE, has four issues every year that include peer-reviewed technical articles on important and emerging topics in the robotics industry written by some of the leading experts in the field. This magazine does have a subscription fee, but it is fairly low for student members.
  • Robotic Magazine is one of the best-known websites in robotics news and includes free articles that cover a wide range of topics pertaining to the robotics industry. Here, you’ll also find information on things like robotic events and robot reviews.
  • RoboticsTomorrow.com is an online trade magazine that shares articles on advancements in robotics, company news, events in the robotics field, as well as robotics products.

Publications

  • Robotics and Automation Society publications have been made available by IEEE with free or discounted electronic access granted to society members. These publications cover a wide range of topics important to the field of robotics and technological advancements.
  • Manufacturing Automation: Robotics is a weekly free publication that covers the latest updates in the robotics field, updates on robot manufacturers, as well as upcoming robotics events.
  • The Robot Report includes a wide range of resources and articles relating to robotics, artificial intelligence, and technologies and markets that surround them. They also have a podcast where experts discuss these topics.

Robotics Organizations

Looking for like-minded people who also have a love of building robots? You’ll find them here! We’ve gathered a list of robotics organizations that includes some of the most well-known organizations, associations, and nonprofits in the robotics field. Joining a robotics organization is a great way to network with others in the field if you’re interested in pursuing a career in robotics.

  • IEEE Robotics and Automation Society is one of the most recognized organizations in the world for robotics and automation. Their goal is to advance the innovation, education, and fundamental and applied research in the field of robotics and automation.
  • International Federation of Robotics is a nonprofit that acts as a global resource for robotics data and connects experts and professionals in the field from around the globe. Their comprehensive market data helps robotics manufacturers enter new markets.
  • Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence is a nonprofit scientific society that provides a variety of services to the artificial intelligence (AI) community as well as many annual conferences and events. The goal of their work is to promote the research and public understanding of AI robots.
  • Robotic Industries Association is a trade organization that assists robot manufacturers, distributors, systems suppliers, research groups, organizations, and more in the exchange of tech and trade-related information. It also facilitates bringing these groups together to discuss problems facing the robotics industry.
  • Foundation for Responsible Robotics is an organization that is working toward a future of responsible robots and AI design, development, use, regulation, and implementation. They work with policymakers and also address ethical issues that may arise within the robotics industry.
  • Robotics Education & Competition Foundation is a educational nonprofit with a goal of increasing student interest and involvement in STEM through hands-on and affordable robotics engineering programs.
  • Robogals is an international organization run by students with an aim to inspire and empower young women ages 8 to 18 to consider studying engineering and related fields through robotics competitions, robot artwork exhibits, and other science challenges.

Robotics Conferences and Events

person presenting at a robotics conference

Attending annual robotics conferences and events is another great way to meet others with a passion for robotics. Listed below are four of the biggest robotics conferences in the world where industry experts come together to discuss new advances in the robotics field and what a future with robots will look like for society.

  • International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) is one of the largest robotics research conferences in the world. It includes a forum, workshops, tutorials, exhibits, and more where the international robotics research community can explore the science and technology of intelligent robots and smart machines.
  • International Symposium of Robotic Research (ISRR) is one of the pioneering symposia for robotics and promotes the development of groundbreaking research and innovation in robotics, with an emphasis on robotics that would play a role in society and directly benefit humans. This forum brings industry experts from across the globe together every two years, with the next one scheduled for 2022.
  • International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) is the annual flagship robotics conference for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. Here, the top robotics experts in the world and major companies in the industry gather to share ideas and advances in the robotics field and discuss its future role. Many important developments in this field have first been presented at this conference.
  • International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering (CASE) is another hosted by IEEE and is their flagship automation conference where researchers, academics, and practitioners come together to discuss cross-industry and multidisciplinary research in automation. Data-driven automation is the theme of this conference.

Robotics Competitions

two people playing with robots

Put your robotics skills to the test with one of these popular annual robotics competitions where students and hobbyists from around the world compete to see who can design, create, and control the best robots to perform a variety of tasks.

  • VEX Robotics Competition is hosted by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation (REC) and has competitions for elementary through university students. Students are challenged to design, build, program, and drive a robot to complete various tasks. The VEX Robotics Competition has been named the largest in the world multiple times by Guinness World Records.
  • FIRST Robotics Competition combines sports with science and technology as it challenges high school students to build and program an industrial-sized robot to play difficult field games against one another. In addition, teams are challenged to raise funds, design a brand for their team, and work well together. The competition has been referred to by students as “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.”
  • BEST Robotics Competition is a middle and high school robotics competition with the goal to get students excited about STEM and careers in these fields. The competition requires students to design and build a functioning machine that can complete tasks in three minutes. They have to build it using a box of random supplies like PVC pipe, a bicycle inner tube, piano wire, and, of course, a BEST Robotics Advanced Instruction Node programmable platform. The competition is offered by nonprofit BEST Robotics Inc. at no cost to participating schools.
  • RoboCupJunior is an educational robotics competition that introduces students through age 19 to the computer science and programming that is used for autonomous robots in RoboCup, an initiative working toward developing a robotic soccer team that can beat a human World Cup championship team. RoboCup Junior offers several challenges, including autonomous robots playing 2-on-2 soccer, having to identify victims in disaster scenarios, and moving through uneven obstacle courses.

University Programs and Robotics Scholarships

To work in the robotics field, you’ll need to first earn a degree in mechanical, electrical, or computer engineering. A majority of the programs offered at universities are at the graduate level, although some of the universities do offer a minor or second major in robotics. Robotics programs at universities and colleges should continue to expand in the future as society’s need for robots continues to grow. Below is a list of universities across the country and the robotics degrees that they offer.

Carnegie Mellon University, The Robotics Institute — Pittsburgh, PA

  • Doctoral program in robotics
  • Master of Science in robotics
  • Additional major in robotics
  • Undergraduate minor in robotics

Northwestern University — Evanston, IL

  • Master of Science in robotics

University of Michigan-Ann ArborAnn Arbor, MI

  • Doctoral program in robotics
  • Master of Science in robotics

New York University — New York, NY

  • Master of Science in mechatronics and robotics

John Hopkins University — Baltimore, MD

  • Master of Science in Engineering in robotics
  • Robotics minor

University of Pennsylvania — Philadelphia, PA

  • Master of Science in Engineering in robotics
  • Doctor of philosophy focusing on robotics

Georgia Institute of Technology — Atlanta, GA

  • Doctoral program in robotics
  • Master of Science in robotics

Oregon State University — Corvallis, OR

  • Doctoral program in robotics
  • Master of Science in robotics
  • Robotics minor

Cornell University — Ithaca, NY

  • Doctoral program in robotics
  • Robotics minor

University of Southern California — Los Angeles, CA

  • Master of Science in computer science (intelligent robotics)

Boston University College of Engineering — Boston, MA

  • Master of Science in robotics and autonomous systems

Robotics Scholarships

Did you know that joining your high school robotics team can help you win scholarships toward your college tuition? Below is a list of robotics scholarships, some of which include scholarships from organizations that partner with colleges across the country to award money to students who have participated in their robotics competitions.

  • FIRST Robotics Scholarship Program requires that high school students compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition to be eligible for one of the many scholarships offered by their 200 scholarship providers. These scholarships are for students pursuing university programs in engineering and robotics, and there is a whopping $80 million available in scholarship money.
  • REC Foundation Scholarships are through the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, which has partnered with more than 50 organizations, universities, and colleges to give away more than 500 scholarships worth a combined total of $30 million. Their goal is to increase student interest in STEM through affordable robotics engineering programs.
  • SME Education Foundation Scholarship Opportunities provide nearly 60 different scholarships for those pursuing a degree in engineering or manufacturing, with $1.64 million in scholarships awarded so far. They have scholarships for graduating high school seniors, undergraduates, and graduate students as well as those attending community college.

General Electronics and Robotics Resources

Looking to learn more about robotics and electronics and the advances they will bring to the future? Below are some great resources and fun activities for those interested in learning more about the intriguing world of robotics.

  • STEMWorks: Robotics — This resource was created to get students of all ages eager to learn more about different aspects of STEM. It has a section dedicated to robotics that includes articles, events for high school students, activities, and even information on cool jobs that can be obtained in the robotics industry.
  • Robot Academy: The Open Online Robotics Education Resource — This site offers a wide variety of robotics-related master classes, single lessons, and online courses at the university level that can help you to better understand and prepare for the future of robotics technology.
  • List of Basic Tools for Robotics — To get started with robotics, you’ll need the proper tools, and this list includes 19 tools that are useful for robot projects, from beginner projects to more advanced robot-building.
  • Robots.IEEE.org — This site will introduce you to nearly 200 real robots from around the world. You’ll find AI robots, robots that can dance, bio-inspired machines, toy robots, space robots, a robot dog, and lifelike androids like Albert Hubo, which has a robotic replica of Albert Einstein's head.
  • Secret Lives of Scientists — Watch videos and get to know some of the scientists and engineers who have made huge advances in robotics and engineering.
  • NOVA Robotics Resources — These videos are great to teach robotics to kids in grades 6-12. They can learn how robots perform a variety of tasks, such as collecting rock samples on Mars or playing a game of soccer.
  • Which Movie Robot Are You? This fun robot quiz created by Careers With STEM will determine which popular movie robot character you’re most like.
  • DIY Robot Costumes — Put your robotics skills to the test on Halloween with one of these DIY robot costumes, some of which use Arduino to make them even cooler.

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