Introduction to Robotics

This class will teach the basics of how robots can move (locomotion and  kinematics), how they can sense (perception), and how they can reason about their environment (planning).

Lecture materials are supported by computer exercises using the simulation software “Webots” (right). Exercises will cover programming of basic sensors, actuators and perception algorithms and are geared to prepare the students to participate in the online competition “RatsLife” ( within the framework of the class.

In RatsLife, two miniature robots “E-Puck” are competing against each other in a virtual maze for available chargers. The students will work in teams of 2 to 3 and develop controllers for the robots putting concepts taught in class into practice. Students will also have the ability to launch their controllers on a set of real e-Puck robots.

Prerequisites: programming experience in C/C++ and/or Java.


Week 1 Introduction to Webots

Class Overview

Chapter 1
Week 2 Introduction to Java

Locomotion and Manipulation

Chapter 2
Week 3 Labor-day week-end Forward and Inverse Kinematics


Chapter 3: pp. 57-77
Week 4 Obstacle avoidance on the E-Puck

Path Planning


Chapter 5: pp. 284-295,Chapter 6: pp.369-393
Week 5 Odometry and Control


Chapter 4: pp.115-142
Week 6 Simple path-planning

Week 7 Vision

Feature extraction

Week 8 Line detection

Uncertainty and error propagation

Chapter 4: pp. 107-115, pp. 243-248,Chapter 5: pp. 270-275
Week 10 Error propagation

Markov Localization

Chapter 5: pp. 296-322
Week 11 Localization

Kalman filter

Chapter 5: pp. 322-342
Week 12 Project


Week 13 Project

Week 15 Project Debates
Week 16 Project presentations Course-wrap-up / Q&A


The “Introduction class” is offered as CSCI 3302 and ECEE 3303 in Fall 2011. We are meeting twice a week. We meet on Wednesday from 11am-12.15pm in ITLL 1B50 for lecture and on Monday from either 8.30am-11am or 12.30pm-3pm in ECCS 112C (choose one upon registering for the class) for the lab exercise. There will be a lab in the first week of class.

Please visit me during office hours on Tuesday between 10-11am in ECOT 733 or by appointment.


  • 20% Homework
  • 25% Project / Debates / Class participation
  • 25% Midterm
  • 30% Final

Reading assignments

We will be using the textbook “Introduction to Autonomous Mobile Robots, 2nd Edition” by Siegwart, Nourbaksh and Scaramuzza, MIT Press, 2011. Make sure you obtain the 2nd edition (red cover) and not the first edition from 2004 (grey cover)!

Students are expected to prepare for classes by reading up on the lecture material before class.


Homework focussing on theory will be available from this website in due course.


Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5 Group 6 Group 7
Katherine Andrew Z. Brian  Mitch  Alex B.  Ivona  Andrew F.
Paul Kevin Devon  TJ  Michael G.  Alex R.  Todd
Michael Jeff Will S.  Dane  Melissa  Don  Tom
Elliot Anarudh Nathan  Will M.  Cameron  Carson  Ryan
Jie Daniel Robert  Alex M.  Dylan  Maddie  Jeremy


  • D1 on 11/16/11: Robots putting humans out of work is a risk that needs to be mitigated.  Group 1 is Yes and Group 2 is No.
  • D2 on 11/16/11: As robots from autonomous lawnmowers to robotic cars are sold as “intelligent systems”, liability for robots should entirely lie by its manufacturer.  Group 3 is both Pro and Contra.
  • D3 on 11/30/11: Robots should have the capability to autonomously discharge weapons / drive around in cities (autonomous cars).  Group 4 is Yes and Group 5 is No.
  • D4 on 11/30/11:  Intelligence is only possible with embodiment.  Group 6 is Yes and Group 7 is No.
  • Extra 1: Robots do not need to be as cognitive as humans in order to be useful as making the environment intelligent is sufficient.
  • Extra 2: Robots need to be made differently than from links, joints, and gears in order to reach the agility of people
Debates will be evaluated in equal parts to the
  • quality of the presentation and defense. Note: it is not your personal opinion that counts but to execute a clear Pro or Contra argument.
  • quality of the background research. What is the (technical) state of the art in robotics in your debate topic?
  • ability to ground arguments in technical facts.


Please refer to the following guidelines on disability, medical conditions, religious observances, behavioral rules, and honor code.


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