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How to Get Started With Your First DYNAMIXEL Robotics Project

18th Jun 2024


Robotics is currently experiencing a golden age of innovation and rapid development as advancing technology makes more and more complex tasks achievable through robotics. Machine learning technology is also helping to accelerate this rapid development by empowering provide robotic systems with highly capable autonomous learning and exploration capabilities. This exceptional growth of the industry means that there has never been a better time to get into robotics. However, for many people, the path to get started not be clear. This article aims to illuminate a path to get started with robotics for anybody who may be interested, to help this expanding field of robotics grow even faster. But before we move on to the learning, we need to start by setting a goal for ourselves to help us get started and understand what exactly it is we are interested in learning.

Choose a Project

Robotics is an extremely wide field, ranging from complex industrial or research projects composed of hundreds of servos all the way to simple Arduino based systems with only one or two actuators. Before diving in, it would help us in our learning process to decide on an existing project that we are interested in. The robotics community is absolutely full of a wide variety of open source projects designed specifically to be recreated and used as educational tools. Take some time to look through the available open source projects and choose one that interests you. For example, if you’re interested in creating an autonomous car or other mobile robotics platform the TurtleBot3 would be a good place to start. If you’d rather work on something with applications related to machine learning and teleoperations, then the Low Cost Robotic Arm by Alexander Koch or the GELLO teaching robot arm may be of more interest to you. Either way, at this stage, it’s important to pick a project that is interesting to you and isn’t too overly complicated. Once you’ve decided on a project that calls to you, it’s time to move on to the next stage.

Break it Down

5-DOF Robot Arm Using Dynamixel XL-330 Servos by ROBOTIS - YouTube

Even the simplest of these robotics projects is composed of many different parts all working together. Trying to recreate the entire project from scratch without prior experience is likely to feel quite overwhelming. With this in mind, the best way to approach your chosen project would be to break it down into these individual components, and focus on learning these individually and building up to the complete project as you progress. As an example, let’s use the previously mentioned TurtleBot3 mobile robotic platform and break it down into some component parts that we can learn more about individually:

  1. ROS: Most modern robotics projects are built on Robot Operating System. This is something that you’ll need to learn at some point no matter what your particular interest in robotics is. You might not need to know all the inner workings of the system, but you’ll need to get familiar with installation, and usage as well as configuration of the environment in order to work comfortably on your future projects.
  2. Microcontrollers: These are the brains of the robot and responsible for executing instructions, processing data and controlling other hardware like sensors and motors. Start by learning about basic microcontrollers such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Understanding how to program these microcontrollers, interfacing them with hardware and debugging the common issues are essential skills for robotics.
  3. Hardware: Understanding the hardware is equally important as the software. It includes the robot’s design, structure, motors, power supply, and other physical components. Understanding how the hardware works and interacts with the software will provide a holistic understanding of the robot’s functioning.
  4. Sensors: The TurtleBot3 and many other robotics projects use a variety of sensors to interact with the world. These may include cameras, ultrasonic sensors, lidar, IMU, encoders among others. Each one of these sensors has a specific purpose and can provide different types of data. It’s beneficial to learn how to use these sensors, understand their function, how to interface them with a microcontroller and how to process their data.
  5. SLAM: Simultaneous Localization and Mapping, or SLAM, is a critical concept for robotics, particularly for mobile robots like TurtleBot3. The essence of SLAM is to create a map of an unknown environment while simultaneously localizing the robot within this map. Understanding and learning SLAM concepts and various SLAM algorithms will definitely enhance your skills in robotics.

Dividing the project into discrete chunks like this makes it easier to focus in on each component and gain an understanding of how they work before integrating everything together into the completed project. This makes the learning process much more manageable as you can delve deeper into each individual component. Furthermore, this approach also helps you identify the areas where you may need more practice or where you might encounter challenges, allowing you to better allocate your learning resources.

Learn and Apply

12 DoF (dynamixel ax-12a servos) quadruped - YouTube

Once you've broken down your chosen project into its fundamental parts, it's time to start learning about these in earnest. There are numerous resources available for learning about robotics. These range from online courses, tutorials, books, forums, and even local workshops or clubs. Some recommended online platforms for learning include Coursera, edX, and Udacity. These platforms offer courses in robotics and related fields like computer science and mechanical engineering. Books can offer more in-depth information, while forums can provide the chance to connect with other enthusiasts and get answers to your questions.

The crucial element in this step is to apply what you learn. As you gain understanding of each component, test it out. This could be as simple as writing a software code to control a servo, or mastering the installation of the ROS. The goal should not only be to understand the theory but to have hands-on experience.

Ask Questions

First In-Person Robotics Class Lets Students See Code Come To (Artificial) Life - Department of ...

Equally important to hands-on experience is reaching out to the available robotics community and asking for advice or clarification on things that you may not understand.Don't be afraid to ask questions, no matter how simple or complex they may seem. Forums and online communities like StackExchange, Reddit, and GitHub are great places to connect with other enthusiasts and professionals in the field. There are also numerous robotics clubs and societies both online and offline where you can seek mentorship and guidance.

In addition, many of the courses and educational platforms mentioned earlier have dedicated discussion sections where students can ask questions and gain answers from instructors and fellow students alike. Remember, every expert in any field started as a beginner and had to ask questions to learn and grow.

Experiment, Iterate and Improve


The field of robotics is highly experimental, and there is always room for creativity and innovation. Don't be afraid to experiment with different configurations, technologies, and strategies even if they are not part of your initial project plan. You may discover a more efficient, creative, or effective approach to a problem. Experimentation is key in fostering innovation and improving problem-solving skills. In a similar vein, once you've built your first robotic project, it's important to keep in mind that the result may not be perfect, and that's okay. It's a learning process. Once your project is complete, take the time to reflect on what went well and what didn't. Where did you struggle? What would you do differently next time? By evaluating your performance, you can identify areas for improvement.

Consider expanding your project or starting a new, more complex one to apply what you've learned. This constant cycle of setting a project, breaking it down, learning and applying, and then evaluating will help you grow your skills in robotics immensely.

Getting into robotics can be a challenging but rewarding pursuit. Remember, it's not about how fast you can accomplish a project, but about the journey of learning and improvement. So whether you're building a simple Arduino-based system or a complex mobile robotic platform like TurtleBot3, enjoy the process, keep learning, and never stop innovating. The world of robotics is vast and constantly evolving, and there's always something new to discover.