ME CS 133 2018-19

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This is a homepage for ME/CS 133(a) (Introduction to Robotics) for Fall/Winter 2018-19. We will also use the Caltech Moodle" system for submitting homeworks, lab assignments, and final project reports.

Course Staff, Hours, Location

Position Name Office Office Hours (changing weekly) Email Phone
Instructor Joel Burdick 245 Gates-Thomas send mail for an appointment jwb at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4139
Teach Asst. Amanda Bouman 205 Gates-Thomas TBD me133tas at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4470
Teach Asst. Anushri Dixit 205 Gates-Thomas TBD me133tas at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4470
Teach Asst. Andrew Singletary Gates-Thomas TBD me133tas at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-????
Administrative Sonya Lincoln 250 Gates-Thomas 7:30am-noon; 1:00pm-4:30pm lincolns at caltech dot edu 626-395-3385

Lecture Schedule:

  • Days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Time: 3:00-3:55 pm
  • Location: 135 Gates-Thomas

Announcements For ME/CS 133(a,b)

  • 12/07/2018: Please mail a copy of your lab 2 report to Andrew Singletary ( )
  • 11/30/2018: The Final Project Instructions were distributed in class.
  • 11/26/2018: Sign up for Lab #2 CAST time at this Doodle Poll
  • 11/09/2018: A revised version of Handout on Quaternion-Based Motion Capture
  • 11/07/2018: Office hours for Lab 1 will take place on Sunday, Nov. 11, in Sherman-Fairchild 326, from 5:00 - 7:30 pm.
  • 11/07/2018: The Lab 1 Due Date has been pushed back to Monday, Nov. 12, 2018
  • 11/07/2018: A link to a zip file containing the Lab 1 data can be found below next to the Lab 1 description. The zip file also contains the MATLAB script to read the .csv files
  • 10/31/2018: Hours for the Lab 1 CAST demonstration are (meet in the lobby of CAST):
    • Friday (Nov. 2) 11am-nooon
    • Friday (Nov. 2) 5-6 pm.
    • Monday (Nov. 5) 5-6 pm.
  • 10/24/2018: Office hours for Homework 2 will be held from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm in Sherman Fairchild Group Study Room 220.
  • 10/15/2018: Office hours for Homework 1 will be held from 7:30-9:30 pm in room 326 of the Sherman Fairchild Library
  • 10/10/2018: The first homework is due Wednesday October 17, 2018

Course Text and References

The main course text for ME/CS 133(a) is:

We will refer to this text as MLS (the initials of the authors' last names). While the course topics will follow the text, additional material will often be presented in class. Additional course handouts covering this material will be posted on this website

A main text for the ME/CS 133(b) is: Planning Algorithms by Steve LaValle (UIUC).

The following book is recommended (but not required) for ME/CS 133(b):

  • Principles of Robot Motion: Theory, Algorithms, and Implementations, by Howie Choset, Kevin Lynch, Seth Hutchinson, George Kantor, Wolfram Burgard, Lydia Kavraki, and Sebastian Thrun.

This text is available at Amazon in both new and used versions.


The final grade will be based on homework sets, and a final exam or final project:

  • Homework (35%): Homework sets are due at 5 pm on the due date (which will always coincide with a class meeting). Homeworks can be dropped off in class, or deposited in the box outside of 245 Gates-Thomas. Some homeworks will require computation. MATLAB or Mathematica should be sufficient to solve every homework posed in ME/CS 133(a), though students can choose their favorite programming language. Code is considered part of your solution and should be included in with the problem set when appropriate.
  • Laboratory (30%): Lab reports are due at 5 pm on the due date (which will usually coincide with a class meeting). Labs can be dropped off in class, or deposited in the box outside of 245 Gates-Thomas. The first labs will familiarize students with the class robots. Subsequent labs will focus on how to translate the lecture material to the lab robots, and will often involve the use of software systems such as ROS and OOMPL.
  • Final project (35%): The final project must incorporate some aspect of the course, and the topic and scope my be approved by the course instructor. The final exam will due at 5:00 pm the last day of finals. The final project is similarly due at 5:00 pm on the last day of finals.
  • Late Homework Policy: Students may automatically take a 2-day extension on two homeworks or labs during each quarter.

Collaboration Policy

Collaboration on homework assignments is encouraged. You may consult outside reference materials, other students, the TA, or the instructor, but you must cite any use of material from outside references. All solutions that are handed in should be written up individually and should reflect your own understanding of the subject matter. Computer code and graphical plots are considered part of your homework solution, and therefore should be done individually (you can share ideas, but not code).

Laboratory assignments will be performed in small teams. Collaboration on laboratory assignments is different. Each team need only submit one laboratory report.

Course Lecture Schedule for ME/CS 133(a)

Week Date Topic Reading Optional Reading Homework
Introduction and Review of Rigid Body Kinematics
1 Oct. (Mon.) Class Overview Course Overview,
Chapter 1 of MLS,
Introduction to the DARPA Subterranean Challenge
History of Kinematics Through 1900 (Introductory chapter from Kinematic Synthesis of Linkages) -No Homework-
3 Oct. (W) Planar Rigid Body Kinematics,
Planar displacements
MLS Ch 2.1, Pages 19-23 Wikipedia Page on the Peaucellier Mechanism
5 Oct. (F) Planar Rigid Body Displacements (continued),
Displacement groups
MLS Ch 2.1,

Change of Reference in Planar Displacements (PowerPoint)

From Planar Rigid Body Kinematics to Spherical Kinematics
08 Oct. (M) poles, Centrodes, elliptic Trammel
Notes on the Elliptical Trammel Archemides Trammel (Wikipedia)
Trammel, V 1, V 2, compliation,
Linkages Synthesized Using Cardan Motion Along Radial Lines
Homework 1,
(Due Wed. Oct. 17)
Solution 1
10 Oct. (W) Intro to Spherical Kinematics MLS Pages 22-26,
Notes on the Classical Matrix Groups
12 Oct. (F) Spherical Kinematics (continued),
Classical Matrix Groups
MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3,
Notes on Rotations
Herman Weyl's book on the classical groups
Spherical Kinematics
15 Oct. (M) Cayley's Theorem, Euler's Theorem MLS 27-31 Wikipedia Page on Cayley Transform Homework 2
(Due Oct. 26)
Solution #2
17 Oct. (W) Angle-Axis Representation, Rodriguez Formula, Matrix Exponential, -N/A-
19 Oct. (F) Euler Angles MLS 31-34 -N/A-
Spherical Kinematics
22 Oct. (M) Quaternions MLS 33-34 Notes On Algebras -N/A-
24 Oct. (W) Quaternion Wrap-Up,
Intro to Spatial Kinematics,
Homogeneous Coordinates,
MLS 34-39 -N/A-
26 Oct. (F) Spatial Exponential Coordinates,
Intro to screws
MLS 39-45
MLS 45-50

Spatial Kinematics and Velocities
29 Oct. (M) Motion Capture Using Rodriguez' Displacement Equation,
Quaternion-Based Displacement Estimation
MLS 51-56
Horn paper on Quaternion-Based Displacement Estimation Lab 1
Zip File with lab1 data and MATLAB scripts
31 Oct. (W) Rigid Body Velocities
MLS 57-64 -N/A-
2 Nov. (F) Rigid Body Velocities and Coordinate Transformations MLS 51-56 -N/A-
Multi-Body Kinematics
5 Nov. (M) Wrenches MLS Chapter 2, Sections 5.1 and 5.2
7 Nov. (W) Joints -N/A-
10 NOV. (F) Multi-Body Kinematics MLS Chapter 3, Sections 1 and 2 -N/A-
ROS Tutorials
12 Nov. (M) ROS Tutorial ROS Tutorial Python script for ROS Tutorial
14 Nov. (W) In-class tutorial on Running ROS -N/A-
16 NOV. (F) NO CLASS -N/A-
Forward Kinematics
19 Nov. (M) Denavit-Hartenberg Convention Scan of Craig Book on D-H Parameters
21 Nov. (W) More Forward Kinematics, Jacobians -N/A-
23 NOV. (F) NO CLASS, Thanksgiving Holiday -N/A-
Jacobian & Differential Drive Kinematics
26 Nov. (M) Jacobians, Differential Drive Kinematics MLS Chapter 3, Section 4, pages 115- 121
Kinematics of a Differential Drive Vehicle
Lab 2 Instructions
Lab 2 Modifiable Python Script
28 Nov. (W) Differential Drive Kinematics -N/A-
30 Nov. (F) Inverse Kinematics MLS Chapter 3, pages 97-99 -N/A-
Inverse Kinematics, Intro to Quadrotors
3 Dec. (M) Inverse Kinematics Continued MLS Chapter 3, pages 108-114
5 Dec. (W) Intro to Multi-Rotors: dynamics -N/A-
7 Dec. (F) Multi-Rotors: basics of control -N/A-