Why you should learn ROS before AI or Robotics

Written by Ricardo Tellez

17/07/2020

So the question is, wether it pays any value to learn ROS without even knowing Robotics or AI.

Well it depends on your learning approach.

I personally do not like the Wikipedia approach to learning. What I mean by Wikipedia approach is the way of teaching where the teacher provides the whole Universe of concepts related to the subject at hands in a very ordered way, point after point, slide after slide, subsection after subsection, without forgetting a comma.
I consider that approach just a demonstration of the teacher’s knowledge and a way to structure his own knowledge for himself, not for the students. He builds a reference material, not a learning material.

I don’t think humans learn that way, going through the whole ontology of concepts of a subject. Instead, I think that we learn by interacting with the world. It could be the physical world or the world of the ideas, but basically, trying to solve a problem and finding the knowledge that you lack. Then you go and get it. Actually, that is how the people who discovered that knowledge got that knowledge in the first place!

This approach to learning is called Constructionism and it is beautifully described by Seymour Papert on his paper Constructionism: A New Opportunity for Elementary Science Education. Papert was one of the pioneers in Neural Networks, and also in teaching programming skills to kids (highly recommended his book Mindstorms, nothing related to the Lego product).

That is exactly the approach we have embedded in our online academy. Actually, our latest courses on Mobile Kinematics for Wheeled Robots, Machine Learning for Robotics, or OpenCV for Robotics, require you to have the basics of ROS before taking those courses. So while you are learning those robotics concepts, you are applying them to actual robots, and hence you understand why you need those equations and what will happen if you don’t use them properly.

Hence to answer the original question, yes, you should learn ROS first and then go for the other subjects. Applying ROS to practice other subjects to robots will help you solidify the knowledge faster because you will be applying it to actual problems.

In your case, are you more a constructionist learner or do you prefer a reference material style? 

Ricardo
Jul 6, 2020 in Barcelona

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