Things just real at Smartwaiver. CEO Mark Silliman has programmed a robot to deliver coffee to the employees’ desks. Go ahead and let that sink in. They push a button on their phone called the Coffee Bot App, which they made. Then a robot brings them coffee.

I know. But it gets even better: Silliman wants to teach the web developer masses how to do program their own coffee bots through a free, 30-session tutorial. Silliman debuted Learn.TurtleBot.com last week.

The open-source course promises to teach developers how to use the Robot Operating System (ROS) to drive a TurtleBot. The latter is an open source hardware and software platform that can autonomously navigate to objects and places.

“There have been so many technical barriers to robotics from the cost to the fact that most of the literature is aimed at academics,” he says. “I want robotics to be accessible to anyone who is interested.”

The tutorials are written at a high-school level and can be completed over a couple weekends. Each includes a video and takes about an hour to finish. By the series end, developers will be able to direct their TurtleBot to … you guessed it… bring them coffee.

While an army of coffee bots is awesome, Silliman actually developed and funded the tutorials with an even loftier aim: to help create the next generation of robotics programmers. Silliman, a serial entrepreneur, has a long-held passion for the robotics industry and its potential.

“I want to live in a world with a robot in every home, and though we have the computing power to do so, we also need a critical mass of people studying the field,” he says.

He contends that robots are ready for the first wave of amateur developers to build off the early work of robotics pioneers and take the field to new heights. Software packages such as ROS as well as the relatively affordable TurtleBot, which you can buy for $1,000 or build yourself for less, have helped make robotics even more accessible.

The learn.turtlebot.com tutorials push the needle even further by teaching core robotics programming concepts in a fun and affordable way.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of many brilliant people and engaged, innovative communities,” Silliman says. “I hope this helps break down even more barriers and puts us that much closer to making the robot revolution a reality.”

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley