ME CS 133 2017-18

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This was the homepage for ME/CS 133(a) (Introduction to Robotics) for Fall/Winter 2017-18. The homepage for ME/CS 133(b) has been moved to the Caltech Moodle" system.

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. Joseph Bowkett 205 Gates-Thomas TBD me133tas at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4470
Teach Asst. Daniel Pastor Moreno 205 Gates-Thomas TBD me133tas at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4470
Teach Asst. Jeff Edlund 205 Gates-Thomas TBD me133tas at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4470
Teach Asst. Ellen Feldman 205 Gates-Thomas TBD me133tas at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4470
Teach Asst. Luke Urban 205 Gates-Thomas TBD me133tas at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4470
Teach Asst. Daniel Naftalovich 205 Gates-Thomas TBD me133tas at robotics dot caltech dot edu 626-395-4470
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)

  • 12/04/17: For those students taking the final exam option, the Final Exam is available. The instructions for the exam are located on the first page.
  • 11/17/17: Information on the Final Project Guidelines are available
  • 11/16/17: Extra Office hours for Lab #1 are
    • 11/16/17 from 6:00-7:00 pm in SFL 326
  • 11/13/17: Lab 1 has been corrected and simplified. See the New Corrected Version of Lab 1
  • 11/13/17: Office hours for Lab #1 are
    • 11/13/17 from 6:30-7:30 in SFL 326
    • 11/14/17 from 7-8 pm in SFL 231
  • 10/13/17: Office hours for Homework #2
  • Monday, Oct. 16, 4:00 pm (after class, in Room 135 Gates-Thomas)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 17, 7:00-9:00 pm (room, 326 Sherman Fairchild)

10/11/17: Homework #2 is due Wednesday, October 18 (see link below) 10/04/17: Office hours for Homework 1 are:

  • 4:00 pm-5:00 pm (right after class) on Friday, Oct. 6 in Gates-Thomas 135
  • 7:00 pm-10:00 pm Sunday, Oct. 8, Sherman Fairchild Rooms 231 and 229

10/02/17: Homework 1 was distributed in class on Monday, and is available at the link below. It is due at 5:00 pm on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.

Course Lecture Schedule for ME/CS 133(a)

Week Date Topic Reading Optional Reading Homework
Introduction and Review of Rigid Body Kinematics
25 Sept. (Mon.) Class Overview Course Overview,
Chapter 1 of MLS
History of Kinematics Through 1900 (Introductory chapter from Kinematic Synthesis of Linkages) -No Homework-
27 Sept. (W) Planar Rigid Body Kinematics,
Planar displacements
MLS Ch 2.1, Pages 19-23 Wikepedia Page on the Peaucellier Mechanism
29 Sept. (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
02 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 Oct. 9)
Solution 1
Histogram of grades received on Hwk 1
04 Oct. (W) Intro to Spherical Kinematics MLS Pages 22-26,
Notes on the Classical Matrix Groups
06 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
9 Oct. (M) Cayley's Theorem, Euler's Theorem MLS 27-31 Wikipedia Page on Cayley Transform Homework 2
(Due Oct. 18)
Solution 2
11 Oct. (W) Angle-Axis Representation, Rodriguez Formula, Matrix Exponential, -N/A-
13 Oct. (F) Euler Angles MLS 31-34 -N/A-
Spherical Kinematics
16 Oct. (M) Quaternions MLS 33-34 Notes On Algebras -N/A-
18 Oct. (W) Quaternion Wrap-Up,
Intro to Spatial Kinematics,
Homogeneous Coordinates,
MLS 34-39 -N/A-
20 Oct. (F) Spatial Exponential Coordinates,
Intro to screws
MLS 39-45
MLS 45-50

Spatial Kinematics and Velocities
23 Oct. (M) Motion Capture via Rodriguez Equation
Intro to Rigid Body Velocities
Using Rodriguez' Displacement Equation,
MLS 51-56
Homework 3
Instructions on Acquiring Virtual Machine
ROS Tutorial
Solution 3
25 Oct. (W) Rigid Body Velocities Continued
Intro to Wrenches
MLS 57-64 -N/A-
27 Oct. (F) No Class -N/A-
Spatial Kinematics and Velocities
30 Oct. (M) Rigid Body Velocities and Coordinate Transformations Using Rodriguez' Displacement Equation,
MLS 51-56
Python script for ROS Tutorial
1 Nov. (W) ROS Tutorial ROS Tutorial -N/A-
3 NOV. (F) Turtlebot Tutorial -N/A-
Spatial Kinematics and Intro to Linkages
6 Nov. (M) Rigid Body Velocities Reviewed, Wrenches MLS 61-66 Lab 1 (corrected): Motion Capture
Due Fri. Nov. 17
Optitrack Python Analysis Template
8 Nov. (W) Intro to Kinematics of Linkages and Manipulators MLS 81-90 -N/A-
10 Nov. (F) Denavit Hartenberg Parameters MLS 81-90 -N/A-

Linkges and Forward Kinematics
13 Nov. (M) ABET interview
Denavit-Hartenberg Continued,
MLS 81-94 Homework #4
Solution #4
15 Nov. (W) Elbow Manipulator Example MLS 81-94 -N/A-
17 Nov. (F) Product of Exponentials approach to forward kinematics -N/A- -N/A-
Linkges and Forward Kinematics
20 Nov. (M) Manipulator Jacobian Matrix MLS 115-121 Lab #2
Python script for Lab 2
22 Nov. (W) Elbow Manipulator Example Kinematics and Odometry of a Differential Drive Vehicle -N/A-
24 Nov. (F) No Class (Institute Thanskgiving Holiday) -N/A- -N/A-

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 (40%): 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 exam/project (30%): In ME/CS 133(a), 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 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 solution, and therefore should be done individually (you can share ideas, but not code). No collaboration is allowed on the examinations.