Today there are a lot of resources on the Internet, such as: Hackaday, Instructables, GitHub where you can share your technological solutions, engineering projects, and other hokey-pokey you made yourself, with those of your own kind. These online resources as well as some others are great for open source developers, but they don’t offer the stuff necessary for a robotics engineer. What do we mean by that?
Robotics engineering combines and requires knowledge, skills, and experience from many spheres.
When I travelled all around the US showing our robotics kits, many educators asked me what robotic platform to use best for junior students, for undergrad students, for post-grad students.
During our conversations with professors in mechanical engineering and robotics schools we found out that most of schools did not share their projects with other students’ robotics engineering groups. Most of them never get reviews of their projects, and what is more important sometimes they cannot get answers to simple questions.
That brought me to the idea that today we needed a user-friendly online platform where robotics engineers could share their projects on a free basis.
The key difference between the resources I mentioned above and the one we offer is that it will contain all the stuff needed for robotics engineering, including finished projects, interesting solutions, manuals, tutorial guidance, contacts with experienced developers, and what not.
Besides, we plan to divide all the stuff into categories to make it easier for you to find information and to share yours.
- Special designs for your robot
- Unique bill of materials
- Compatible firmware
- App for different mobile devices
- Cloud applications
- Academic curriculum
- Guidance and tutorials
- Final products in photo
- Demo video
- Troubleshooting page
It is also important to list schools and colleges already involved in this project, and maybe even to list makers and contributors working at this or that project. A site designed specifically for robotics engineers and programmers will no doubt help involve more robotics makers.
Upgrades, Improvements and Forks
It’s not a secret that almost any finished project may be changed, improved, upgraded or even re-made. So a possible upgrade plan made by the project developer will help other enthusiasts improve the original solution or might inspire them to create their own fork..
- Improve the design
- Replace servos with stepper motors or add more
- Add more sonars or IR sensors
- Replace Arduino with Raspberry Pi or Intel Edison, or Genuino 101
- Install an Altera board or a Xilinx board.
- Add ROS to control the robot.
- Make it compatible with all iOS gadgets controlling console
- Add augmented reality features to control the robot
- Add lights and different accessories, e.g. an ext. speaker and a microphone
- Add a mobile device with a smart chatbot
- Add a robotic arm to grab things
- Add headlights
- Add a Kinect or a RealSence camera for gesture detection
- Add algorithms of autonomous driving
- Create an app with the client server support
So, all these bullets could change the entire project
I believe that a fork section is the one of the most important part where users can share their ideas, can choose projects to improve and create their own forks.
Most projects just die after they are finished since they are not well enough documented to let others work at their improvement.
Required skills and knowledge
We understand that in many cases students or educators are afraid to start robotics projects because they do not know what actual skills they will need for this. So it would be great if the shared projects were rated, that is, had notes to say what knowledge or skills are required to develop them. For example, this project is good for a software engineer beginner level or it requires advanced robotics engineer skills.
It will help attract specialists with the required skills, knowledge, and experience.
It would be really great if inside this community people could help students choose a most suitable project for them to research or develop.
Right now people do not rush to deal with robotics. Many of them think it’s too complicated and requires special knowledge and skills, such as software, hardware, mechanical engineering… And that is true. Before you start something you need to have at least some basic knowledge in the field you are going to conquer.
Popularization of the idea of the robotics community
Speaking to different educators we see that many educators feel lack of resources where they could contribute their project to and get a review.
We believe that foundation of the robotics community will become an important milestone in the robotics history. As soon as one educator gets a review he will be happy to review someone else’s project.
Experienced hobbyists, makers and enthusiasts could also review other developers’ shared projects.
Reviewers can help a lot popularize the idea of the robotics community
It is important to attract reviewers to this space so that top bloggers or tech evangelists could test and rank the technology or help establish contacts and partnerships with other streams. For example, they could connect two similar projects together if they see that the makers are actually working on the same problem. It would be very useful for the robotics community.
Peer reviewers as well as professors from TOP tech colleges could help young students get an academic feedback on their projects.
Share Your Personal Experience
Sharing one’s personal experience is a key to successful involvement of students, professors and hobbyists in the robotics community.
A final video of a working project is your key story of success that will impress beginners and will inspire hobbyists and students to start a new project.
It is worthwhile subdividing the platform material into categories to facilitate the process of searching for projects of interest for makers and developers. So it might encourage students to stay in the community even after they finished their projects and later to share their personal experience with newcomers, thus assisting with an educational process, supporting other young developers with advice or helpful comments. This is what an open-source community is meant for.
A Support Center
One of the key things to this community is an advanced support center, where users and contributors can assist with solving different issues.
A support center, as we see it, will be a section of the online platform where any maker can get professional answers to his questions. Thus, software issues will be directed to software people, electronics issues to electronics professionals. Professional, competent support is very important for any group to become a real community.
Suppliers and components lists
One of the most common questions people ask is, where can I buy all this?
A comprehensive list of components suppliers in your location will be a very helpful tool to find the best parts needed and order them with just with one click. It is absolutely necessary to provide users of the community with this convenient tool, so that they did not waste time surfing the Internet in the search of the compatible components.
For example, you plan to create a telepresence robot DIY SelfieBot; your location is Naples, Florida, the USA and you wonder if you can find all the necessary electronics and make an order in one place and as close to your location as possible or you will have to spend a lot of time trying to locate where you can find and order a complete list of components you need.
Hobbyists and makers will also appreciate if they have the information about the places where they can do or have some works done, for instance, metalwork, 3D printing, or laser cutting and engraving.
And the last but not the least thing is motivation. What will motivate robotics guys to contribute their projects to the open-source community space? Evidently, it should be something more than just the number of views and likes.
We believe, that it will add value to the community if our online platform will have a section of commercially interesting projects, so that developers could advertise their products and technologies, find customers and sell licenses. It will, no doubt, dramatically increase the amount of people who would like to contribute to the community. An open – source project is meant for non-commercial purposes or for education but a contributor still can leave certain solutions in the project undisclosed so that he could patent them and sell for commercial use.
It will not break the idea of an open-source community, have no fear, since most of solutions will be fully open-sourced. But some ultimate projects for commercial applications might be listed as commercial products with a trial period.
That is an outline plan to create and develop an open-source robotics community.
We have already started
As a first step we’ll start this community using the Google docs infrastructure, since we have no funding to run an advanced website.
We have already started to work up at the policy of the community and invite schools and universities to share their projects with us.
Once we get 30-50 colleges involved we will start fundraising. We have already attracted to the project a number of US schools and colleges. MIT, FSU, FGCU are among them. If you get interested or have some ideas to share, please email us: [email protected], or add in Skype: George.fomitchev
We are open-minded and ready for any constructive critics.
At the end we remind everyone that the solutions presented on Endurance’s website are fully open-source
Join us and help.
Helping us, you will assist to improve an education process and make it more efficient.
Written by George Fomitchev, EnduranceRobots.com