If you want to build a robot, there’s lots of good information online. For example, my free robot building guide (How to Make a Robot: the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide) explains all the basic terminology and concepts you need to know to get started. But once you gather all the necessary robot hardware and begin the work of assembling your robot, you’re going to need to buy a comprehensive robot design book if you want to “level up” your robot building abilities.
Good robot design books contain schematics, circuit diagrams and other detailed information that will help you put together a top-notch bot. Read on to find out more about 4 of the most popular robot design books on the market today.
Robot Design Book Review 1: Robot Building for Dummies
When I put together this comparison review, the first thing I did was look into what the Dummies series has to offer in the way of robot design guides. I love the Dummies series books because they are written in a very clear, down-to-earth, easy-to-read style.
However, I do not like Robot Building for Dummies.
After leafing through the book I immediately noticed that much of the information is out of date. Robot Building for Dummies was first published back in 2003. The book was republished in 2011– but even 5 years is a long time in the world of hobby robotics.
Here are just a few details that suggested to me that Robot Building for Dummies needs to be updated:
- RadioShack is listed as a robot hardware vendor. But RadioShack no longer sells hobby robotics stuff.
- Owi no longer sells the Soccer Jr. Robot Kit referenced in the book.
- The programming guide shows you how to use PBASIC– an out-of-date robot programming language that was popular in the 90s.
Even though Robot Building for Dummies is out of date, it’s not totally useless. The first few chapters are still relevant. And, the soldering guide and the safety tip section is actually pretty good. Of course, the classic Dummies series trademarks (tips, funny cartoons, tech-speak breakdowns, etc.) are present and accounted for. But if you are looking for a quality robot design books there are much, much better options out there.
- Easy to read
- Enjoyable Dummies series style
- Good safety tips and soldering guide
- Ridiculously out of date
Check the price of Robot Building for Dummies on Amazon.
Robot Design Book Review 2: Arduino for Dummies
Next up is a far superior Dummies book: Arduino for Dummies. Even though Arduino for Dummies doesn’t contain the word “robot” in the title, it’s actually contains a lot of information that every robot builder should know.
The primer on electricity is particularly excellent. If you don’t get how electricity works, you will end up frying your robot’s brain. I touch on electricity basics in my own robot building guide, but an even more robust explanation is provided in Arduino for Dummies.
Another strong point of the book is its soldering guide. You don’t need to know how to solder circuits together to build a robot. But if you build a circuit that you like and want to keep, it’s nice to know how to transfer it from a breadboard onto a more permanent protoboard.
Towards the end of the book, you find out how to buy and setup servo motors and motor shields. You definitely need to know all about motors and shields if you want to build an Arduino robot. Learning how to create the basic Arduino sketches outlined in the book will build your robot knowledge, too. Arduino for Dummies does an excellent job of explaining every aspect of Arduino IDE code that it presents. You’ll definitely need to be familiar with Arduino IDE if you want to create advanced robot projects.
The only downside to this book is that the designs it contains are ultra basic. You learn how to do things like control a LED light and get a motor to move. What this book lacks is a big project that ties all the little ones together.
- Explains how to use a motor shield
- Excellent electricity primer
- Great soldering guide
- Up to date, relevant info
- You learn all the skills you’ll need to design a robot
- The machines that you learn how to make are too simple to be called robots
- It feels like it needs a big project to tie all the little ones together
Check the price of Arduino for Dummies on Amazon.
Robot Design Book Review 3: Making Simple Robots
Simple robots made out of everyday household objects are just plain cool. Turning an old piece of junk into a robot forces you to reconsider its value.
In her previous book Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future, some reviewers commented that Ceceri didn’t come up with enough specific robot design plans. But in Making Simple Robots, Ceceri offers up several totally unique ideas for designing low budget robots.
The weird little robot featured on the cover of the Making Simple Robots is a tensegrity bot.
What is a tensegrity robot?
A tensegrity robot uses a tensegrity structure to move around. A tensegrity structure is a construction that can spring back into shape when pressed.
Check out the tensegrity robot below for an example of what an full sized tensegrity bot looks like.
Ceceri recommends using a simple littleBit motor to get your little rubber band robot moving. Using a plain motor to power the bot does simplify the amount of steps needed to finish the it. However, it would be nice if Ceceri showed you how to hook the tensegrity bot up to a brain. With a microcontroller and an additional motor, you could get this bot to move around autonomously. Unfortunately, Ceceri doesn’t explain how to take her unique bot to the next level.
Here are some other robots you can learn how to build with this book:
- An inflatable robot “muscle” made out of balloons
- A gliding vibrobot made out of a gumball machine capsule
- A software chatbot made using free open source visual program language called Scratch.
- A soft, cuddly “fiberbot” that’s equal parts robot and ragdoll
Every robot design concept in the book is very creative. These are fascinating ideas for robots that you really can’t find anywhere else. The problem is that many of the plans are half baked.
Making Simple Robots is a unique guide to building weird, cheap bots. But with a little more work and research, it could’ve been a game changer.
- This book contains incredibly unique, crafty robot designs that you can’t find anywhere else.
- Ceceri’s writing style is simple, organized and easy to follow.
- Ceceri seems to be primarily interested in coming up with interesting and crafty robot designs. If you want to learn how to program one of the bots that this book shows you how to make, you’ll have to figure that part out yourself.
Check the price of Making Simple Robots on Amazon.
Robot Design Book Review 4: Arduino Robotics
Arduino Robotics has just about everything you’d expect to find in a comprehensive robot design book. In addition to a slew of creative robot design ideas, it also has several excellent and very thorough primers designed to get beginners up to speed.
The first chapter walks you through the basics in a systematic way. It’s almost long enough to be its own separate book. First, you learn all about electricity. Then you learn about all the different types of electronic components. Next up is an Arduino primer. Then, the writers go into the subject of circuits. Finally, chapter 1 concludes with a discussion of different types of robot hardware.
While reading through the first chapter, I noticed that the text is often quite dense and may be difficult for some people. In many parts of the book, Arduino Robotics reads like a college level textbook.
After you get through the meaty first chapter you can finally start learning how to program your Arduino with some basic commands. The chapter after that is all about connecting and configuring motors.
After chapter 3, the rest of the book is all about how to create different types of Arduino robots. Here is the list of robots that you’ll learn how to create if you get this book:
- a motorized “line bot” that can follow a piece of tape
- an autonomous robot that can detect and avoid walls
- an beetle-like bot that feels its way around with bump sensors
- a rugged explorer bot that’s equipped with a camera
- a GPS guided RoboBoat that can sail the seven seas
- a helpful “LawnBot” that’s basically an smart wheelbarrow
- a self-balancing two-wheeled “SegwayBot”
- a heavy duty BattleBot warrior
My one and only problem with this book is that I wish that the writers spent a little more time explaining how Arduino code works. They do an excellent job of explaining how hardware and circuits fit together, though.
- The chapter on robot motors is outstanding
- Extremely well-organized
- Contains 8 unique Arduino robot designs
- Over 500 pages of incredibly useful information
- The writing is a bit dry at times
- More Arduino code explanations would be nice
Check the price of Arduino Robotics on Amazon.
Which Robot Design Book Is the Best?
With the exception of the embarrassingly out-of-date Robot Building for Dummies, all of the books on this list have something unique and worthwhile to offer. If your main interest is learning how your Arduino robot’s brain works, you’ll probably prefer Arduino for Dummies. But if you want a book with lots of cool and cheap robot design ideas, you’ll like Make: Making Simple Robots or Arduino Robotics.
My personal favorite robotics book is Arduino Robotics. It was written by and for hardcore robotics nerds. Even though it’s a bit thin when it comes to Arduino coding, it has a ton of incredibly useful information about hardware that you need to know if you want to build a complex robot.
If you want to become a real robotics whiz, buy Arduino Robotics and Arduino for Dummies together. By the time you master the info contained in both books, you’ll know literally almost everything there is to know about hobby robotics.
If you aren’t so gung-ho about learning how to make robots or if you just want to learn how to make cool looking simple robots, you’ll like Make: Making Simple Robots.