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 220 Gates-Thomas 7:30am-noon; 1:00pm-4:30pm lincolns at caltech dot edu 626-395-3385

  • Lecture Schedule: The first class will meet at 11:00 am in Gates-Thomas 135. Due to numerous class conflicts, the time will be changed to accommodate as many students as possible.
  • Lecture Location: Gates-Thomas 135 is the tentative location, but subject to change.

Course Text and References

The main course text is:

We will refer to this text as MLS (the three authors last name initials). While the course topics will follow the subjects in this text, 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.


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.

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.


The course time will change based on a class vote to find the time where the maximum number of students can participate.\n\n

Course Schedule for ME115(a)

Week Date Topic Reading Optional Reading Homework
Introduction and Review of Rigid Body Kinematics
4 Jan (Mon.) Class Overview Chapter 1 of MLS History of Kinematics Through 1900 (Introductory chapter from Kinematic Synthesis of Linkages) -No Homework-
6 Jan (W) Intro to Planar Rigid Body Kinematics MLS Ch 2.1, Pages 19-23 -N/A-
8 Jan (F) Planar Rigid Body Displacements, poles MLS Ch 2.1,
Notes on the Elliptical Trammel
Archemides Trammel (Wikipedia)
Polyhedral Linkages Synthesized Using Cardan Motion Along Radial Lines
From Planar Rigid Body Kinematics to Spherical Kinematics
11 Jan (M) Planar Displacements Groups, Intro to Spherical Kinematics MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3] -N/A- Homework 1
13 Jan (W) Spherical Kinematics, Matrix Groups MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3 -N/A-
15 Jan (F) Classical Matrix Groups MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3,
Notes on Classical Matrix Groups
Spherical Kinematics
18 Jan (M) No Class: Marin Luther King Holiday -N/A- -N/A- No Homework
20 Jan (W) Spherical Displacements, Matrix Groups MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3 -N/A-
22 Jan (F) TBD -N/A- -N/A-
Spherical Kinematics (continued)
25 Jan (M) Construction of the angle axis formula for rotations Notes on Classical Matrix Groups,
Notes on Rotations
-N/A- rowspan=3 align=center Homework 2
26 Jan (W) MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3 -N/A-
25 Jan (W) Euler Angles MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3 -N/A-
5 colspan=5
Spherical Kinematics
30 Jan (M) Euler Angles -N/A- -N/A- rowspan=3 align=center Homework 3
(due Mon. Feb. 13)
31 Jan (Tu) Quaternions MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3 -N/A-
1 Feb (W) More Quaternions MLS Ch 2.2, 2.3 -N/A-
Spatial Kinematics
6 Feb (M) Spatial Kinematics: Homogeneous Coordinates and Chasle\'s Theorem MLS Ch 2.3; Rodriguez' Displacement Equation; -N/A- rowspan=3 align=center Homework 4
7 Feb (Tu) Relations among various representations of displacements & motion capture MLS Ch 2.3 -N/A-
8 Feb(W) Motion capture & Rigid Body Velocities MLS Ch 2.4 -N/A-
7 colspan=5
Spatial Kinematics: Wrenches
13 Feb (M) Wrenches MLS Ch 2.3; -N/A- -N/A-
14 Feb (Tu) Wrenches and Poinsot\'s Theorem MLS Ch 2.4-2.5 -N/A-
15 Feb(W) Screws and the Reciprocal Product MLS Ch 2.5 -N/A-
20 Feb (M) President's Day Holiday -N/A- -N/A- rowspan=3 align=center -N/A-
21 Feb (Tu) Manipulator Mechanisms and Lower Pair Joints MLS Ch 3 -N/A-
22 Feb(W) Denavit-Hartenberg Convention MLS Ch 3 -N/A-
align=center rowspan=4 9 colspan=5
Forward/Inverse Kinematics
27 Feb (M) Denavit-Hartenberg Convention (continued), Examples MLS Ch 3; Rodriguez' Displacement Equation; -N/A- rowspan=3 align=center Homework 5
28 Feb (Tu) Product of Exponentials Formula MLS Ch 3 -N/A-
29 Feb(W) Inverse Kinematics MLS Ch 3 -N/A-