Date:: Thu, October 4, 3:30pm – 4:30pm

Where: ECCR 265 (map)

Robots are computers that are extended by sensing, actuation, and communication capabilities. Similarly, devices that were previously limited to actuation or sensing alone, such as vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers, cars or everyday gadgets and household appliances are becoming robots by increasing their sensing and computation capabilities, eventually leading to a paradigm shift from “Personal Computers” to “Personal Robots”. This viewpoint positions “robotics” not as a new discipline, but as an extension of computer science and its sub-disciplines including artificial intelligence, natural language processing, computer vision, software engineering, security, and human-computer interaction, among others. The key challenges of a robotic system — not only from a research, but also from an educational perspective – are (1) that the dynamics and uncertainty of the real world require a shift from deterministic to probabilistic reasoning, (2) computing interaction with the physical world requires a deep understanding of its dynamics, and (3) that robots are systems-of-systems often consisting of hundreds of distributed, heterogeneous computing elements. While these challenges might require curriculum updates to almost all computer science sub-disciplines in the long run, specific “robotics” classes are needed that focus on the interface between the computational and physical world and let students experience real world dynamics, uncertainty, and complexity first-hand. In my talk, I will describe a one-year introductory robotics course sequence focusing on computational aspects of robotics for third- and fourth-year students that addresses these challenges. Content learning and retention is assessed for a subset of students who successfully went through the proposed curriculum. All class materials as well as hardware, in particular a low-cost, highly articulated robotic arm developed for teaching advanced robotics concepts, are opensource and available online. Nikolaus is an Assistant Professor in Computer Science at the University of Colorado. He obtained his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from ETH Zuerich, a Ph.D. in Computer Science from EPFL and worked as a post-doc at MIT CSAIL. Nikolaus’s research interests are multi-robot and swarming systems. He teaches “Introduction to Robotics” and “Advanced Robotics” to third- and fourth-year students. He is the recipient of a NSF and a NASA CAREER award.

Slides: From Personal Computers to Personal Robots


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