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Robotics I Fall 2007

Robotics II Spring 2007

Robotics I Fall 2006

Vision Servoing Laboratories

FPGA-Based Vision


LabVIEW Embedded


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See the UML eNews story about the Egg Hunt Contest!!

El Capitan Huevo vs. Demolitron UMass Lowell Egg Hunt
November 2007 Photo Essay
Demolitron vs. The Eggsecutives


Prof. Fred G. Martin
Olsen 208 (office) x1964
Olsen 306 (lab) x2705


Monday, 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm (lab)
Friday, 1:30 pm to 2:20 pm (lecture)

Office Hours


Required Books

We will use two required books. They are ordered and available now at the UML North Bookstore. Please buy them there to make sure you have them right away:

Robotic Explorations:
A Hands-On Introduction to Engineering
Fred Martin
Behavior-Based Robotics (1998)
Ronald C. Arkin
My own textbook/project guide for building mobile robots.An excellent theoretical text introducing control systems for mobile robots.

There will be other readings, including essays published on the web and material photocopied from out-of-print books. The latter will be handed out in class.


This is a hands-on class with a focus on mobile robots as embedded systems.

The course has three main sections:

  1. A series of 5 weekly labs to introduce sensors, motors, robot vision, and robot programming.
  2. The annual Egg Hunt contest, in which you design and build a robot to collect "good" eggs while stuffing "bad" eggs into your opponent's goal.
  3. Open period in which you develop a robotic/embedded systems application. This will be done in collaboration with graphic design students.

This is an intro level course to these topics. Prior knowledge should be mostly you are interested in robotics or embedded systems and you are willing to work hard in the lab to execute your ideas.

The course will be conducted using the LabVIEW Embedded visual programming environment. C-language programming is not required (but is available for those interested). We will be using the new "Blackfin Handy Board" 32-bit DSP controller board, which has been developed with the support of Analog Devices Inc.

The class is open to students of Computer Science, Engineering, and any other Technical major at UML. For CS students, take Robotics II in the spring to complete your project sequence.

Email/Discussion Group

Please join the class discussion group to be kept in the loop with course announcements and to share information with your peers:

Google Groups
Subscribe to UML Robotics I Fall 2007
Visit this group

Open Project Database

Throughout the semester, we will participate use Open Project Database web site. The site is a community-built database of resource for inventors in general and roboticists in particular.

The Project Database URL is Each class member will create a personal login on the system. As part of lab write-up and project documentation activities, directions will be given for creating entries (known as “cubes”) on the system.

Project Sequence

This course together with Robotics II in the spring is a project sequence.


Most work will be done in labs, which are due weekly. Here is the sequence of topics and projects:

Lab 1: Introduction to the Blackfin Handy Board, LabVIEW Embedded, and Braitenberg Vehicles. This lab will introduce work with the Blackfin Handy Board, 32-bit DSP robotics controller that runs LabVIEW Embedded. Also, in this lab you will configure a first robot for class use, and get an introduction to robot programming and Braitenberg Vehicles.

Lab 2: Feedback including Wall-Following and Velocity Control. This lab will introduce feedback as an organizing concept for robot activity. Using an optical distance sensor, you will create a control system to drive the robot at a constant distance from the wall. Using built-in DC motor velocity sensors, you will create a control system to drive the robot at constant velocity.

Lab 3: Sonars and Servos. In this lab, you will work with a sonar ranging sensor (which allows detection of objects at greater distances than the optical distance sensor) and servo motors for precise positioning.

Lab 4: Behavior-Based Robotics and Multilayered Control. This lab will explore ways of coordinating multiple, competing robot operating modes. Topics include emergence, meta-sensing, and randomness; Rodney Brook's subsumption architecture, and Behavior-based robotics.

Lab 5: Vision and Object-Tracking. This lab will introduce CMOS cameras, color calibration, and simple blob-tracking algorithms. You will program your robot to find plastic eggs, which are the game object to be used in the Egg Hunt contest. You will also build some kind of Egg Capture system.

Robot Contest: Egg Hunt. We will run a robot contest based on Rich Drushel's “Egg Hunt” design (see the CWRU LEGO 375/475 course web site). We will have a “mock contest” in lab (Nov 9 and then a public contest (Nov 15).

Student Projects. The last portion of the course is for open robotic project designs. These do not have to be mobile robots — any sort of project that involves sensing, control, and action is welcome. I am particularly interested in projects that directly involve human interaction with robotic system. These projects will be done in conjunction with art students (see below).

Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration with Graphic Design Students

For the 4rd consecutive year, our class is collaborating with Graphic Design III, taught by Prof. Karen Roehr in the Art Department.

When our project teams around the contest robots are formed, Prof. Roehr will assign groups of art students to create identity and “branding campaigns” to publicize your robots. Her students will create business cards, pamphlets, and posters to create a buzz around each of your robots.

As part of this work, we will visit Prof. Roehr's class on South Campus in September, and her students will attend our Egg Hunt contest in November.

Afterward, we are planning a deeper interdisciplinary collaboration for joint final projects in the two courses. Yourselves and Prof. Roehr's students will work together to conceive of and implement a technological artifact that takes advantage of your combined skills, as they are best applied.

Exams and Other Important Dates

• Guest lecture on LabVIEW by Andrew Watchorn. TBD.
• Mon Oct 15: Class meets in the basement of McGauvran (UML South) to demonstrate our robots to the Graphic Design III students.
• Fri Oct 26: Midterm, in class.
• Thu Nov 15:'' Egg Hunt contest, held in the Olsen 3rd Floor elevator lobby. This Thu runs the Mon schedule.


Written Assignments, Labs, and Lab Reports 25%
Midterm Exam 25%
Contest and Writeup 25%
Final Project and Writeup 25%

Collaboration Policy

Labs and robot design will be done in groups. You may choose your own partners, but I reserve the right to regroup people as the term progresses. For the labs, I expect that each person will do his or her own equal share of the work. To learn, you must actually build and program the robots – not watch another person do it.

Homework assignments should be written up by yourself. You may discuss the questions with your classmates, but you must write them up individually.

Exams are also to be an individual proposition.


Students will work in teams with robot building kits provided in lab. All robot work will be done in lab; the robot kits are not to leave campus.


The course will be conducted in the new Laboratory for Interactive Learning, in Olsen 302. The door has an ID lock, so you will have 24 hour access to the lab via your UML ID. You must enter with your ID.

Each group will have their own workbench with a computer for building and programming their robots. This area will be shared with other people, so it is important to keep your workspace and the lab neat.

Food policy — food is permitted with the condition that all food must be cleaned up immediately at end of the work session in which it was consumed. Only bottled drinks with caps are permitted – no cans of soda. Violations will result in loss of food privileges. We have rodents in this building, so I have little tolerance for food mess.

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Page last modified on December 24, 2007, at 07:10 PM