ME115 2016

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This is the homepage for ME 115(a,b) (Introduction to Kinematic and Robotics) for Winter/Spring 2016.

Course Staff, Hours, Location

Position Name Office Office Hours Email Phone
Instructor Joel Burdick 245 Gates-Thomas TBD jwb at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4139
Teach Asst. Krishna Shankar 205 Gates-Thomas TBD krishna at caltech dot edu 626-395-????
Teach Asst. TBD TBD TBD ??? at 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: The lecture schedule seems to have stabilized. The currently planned lectures will take place at:
    • Monday: 9:00 am - 9:55 am in Gates-Thomas 135
    • Wednesday: 12:00 pm - 12:55 pm in Gates-Thomas 135
    • Friday: 10:00 am - 10:55 am in Gates-Thomas 135

Course Text and References

The main course text is:

We will refer to this text as MLS (the initials of the authors last names). While the course topics will follow the text subjects, additional material not in the text will often be presented in class. Additional course handouts covering this material will be posted on this website

Course Syllabus

Theoretical Kinematics is the study of motion and the analytical tools to represent motion, while Applied Kinematics is the analysis and synthesis of mechanisms which implement given motions. This course presents a basic overview of theoretical kinematics, while the applied portions focus on robotic mechanisms.

An overview of the course, including course mechanics, grading, etc. The most salient information is repeated below.


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

  • Homework (70%): Homework sets will be handed out every 7-10 days, and 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 this course, 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.
  • Final exam/project (30%): Students have the option to take a final exam (a limited time take-home format exam which is open book, open note, and computer allowed) or select a final project. 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 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 solution, and therefore should be done individually (you can share ideas, but not code). No collaboration is allowed on the examinations.


  • 01/11/16: Homework #1 will be available during the evening of Mon., Jan. 11. Due Wed. Jan 20.
  • 01/09/16: The class time is tentative set (see lecture schedule above)
  • 01/04/16: The class time (and probably location) will be changed in order to allow the maximum number of students to participate. Look for updates.

Course Schedule for ME115(a)

Week Date Topic Reading Optional Reading Homework
Introduction and Review of Rigid Body Kinematics
4 Jan (Mon.) Class Overview Course Overview,
Chapter 1 of MLS
History of Kinematics Through 1900 (Introductory chapter from Kinematic Synthesis of Linkages) -No Homework-
6 Jan (W) Planar Rigid Body Kinematics,
Planar displacements
MLS Ch 2.1, Pages 19-23 -N/A-
8 Jan (F) Planar Rigid Body Displacements (continued),
Displacement groups
MLS Ch 2.1, -N/A-
From Planar Rigid Body Kinematics to Spherical Kinematics
11 Jan (M) Displacement groups, poles
Planar Displacements (PowerPoint)
-N/A- Homework 1,
(due Wed. Jan. 20)
13 Jan (W) Example: Ellliptical Trammel,
Intro to Spherical Kinematics
MLS Pages 22-26,
Notes on the Elliptical Trammel
Archemides Trammel (Wikipedia)
Polyhedral Linkages Synthesized Using Cardan Motion Along Radial Lines
15 Jan (F) Spherical Kinematics (continued),
Classical Matrix Groups
MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3,
Notes on Rotations
Spherical Kinematics
18 Jan (M) No Class: Marin Luther King Holiday -N/A- -N/A- No Homework
20 Jan (W) Cayley's Theorem,
Exponential Coordinates Matrix Groups
MLS 27-31 -N/A-
22 Jan (F) Euler Angles, Quaternions MLS 31-34 -N/A-
Spherical Kinematics (continued)
25 Jan (M) Quaternions (continued),
Intro to Spatial Kinematics
MLS 34-39 Notes on Algebras Homework 2
27 Jan (W) Spatial Displacments,
Chasle's Theorem
MLS Pages 35-50 -N/A-
29 Jan (W) Spatial Displacements,
Exponential Coordinates
MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3 -N/A-
Spatial Kinematics
1 Feb (M) Spatial Displacements,
Exponential Coordinates
-N/A- -N/A- Homework 3
3 Feb (W) MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3 -N/A-
5 Feb (F) Intro to Rigid Body Velocities MLS Pages 51-52 -N/A-
Spatial Kinematics
8 Feb (M) Spatial Kinematics: Homogeneous Coordinates and Chasle\'s Theorem MLS Ch 2.3; Rodriguez' Displacement Equation; -N/A- Homework 4
10 Feb (W) Relations among various representations of displacements & motion capture MLS Ch 2.3 -N/A-
12 Feb(F) Motion capture & Rigid Body Velocities MLS Ch 2.4 -N/A-
Spatial Kinematics: Wrenches
15 Feb (M) No Class: President's Day Holiday MLS Ch 2.3; -N/A- -N/A-
17 Feb (W) Wrenches and Poinsot\'s Theorem MLS Ch 2.4-2.5 -N/A-
19 Feb(F) Screws and the Reciprocal Product MLS Ch 2.5 -N/A-
22 Feb (M) TBD -N/A- -N/A- No Homework
23 Feb (W) Manipulator Mechanisms and Lower Pair Joints MLS Ch 3 -N/A-
25 Feb(F) Denavit-Hartenberg Convention MLS Ch 3, DH-Parameters (from Wikipedia),
Scan from Craig Book on D-H Parameters
Forward/Inverse Kinematics
29 Feb (M) Denavit-Hartenberg Convention (continued), Examples MLS Ch 3; Rodriguez' Displacement Equation; -N/A- Homework 5
2 Mar (W) Product of Exponentials Formula MLS Ch 3 -N/A-
4 Mar(F) Inverse Kinematics MLS Ch 3 -N/A-
Forward/Inverse Kinematics
7 Mar (M) Denavit-Hartenberg Convention (continued), Examples MLS Ch 3; Rodriguez' Displacement Equation; -N/A- Homework 6
9 Mar (W) Product of Exponentials Formula MLS Ch 3 -N/A-