Rules for Roboticists

Rules for Roboticists

In honor of Robot Day here on MAKE, I’ve posted my “Rules for Roboticists,” from my 2004 book Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. It’s a playful list of operating principles, rules of thumb, and words o’ wisdom about bot building. The piece is accompanied by robot scientist “trading cards,” illustrated by Mark Frauenfelder, for the book.

11. A roboticist should know when to come back later (A.K.A. “The Kenny Rogers Rule”)
When you’re building anything, especially something as complicated as a robot, the build can sometimes get ugly. If you try to force your way through, you can often dig yourself into an even deeper hole. So here’s what you do: “Put the soldering iron down. Step away from the steaming robot entrails!” You’ll be amazed at what an hour away, vegging in front of the TV, rolling around on the floor with the cat, or sleeping on your problem will do. It almost never fails. Here’s a corollary: The extent to which you don’t want to drop what you’re doing and take a break (“I know I can fix this, damn it!”), is inversely proportional to the extent to which you need a break. Why is it the Kenny Rogers Rule? Cause “you got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, and know when to walk away…”

Rules for Roboticists – Link

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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