SC/BC1800D.03 Introduction to Robots

Course Administration

This course is a first-year university seminar in science offered by Norman Bethune College. Registration information can be found in the Bethune College Calendar. This course is a full year course and meets Wednesdays from 3:30-5:30 in 323 Bethune (previously 228 Bethune).

Course Description

An autonomous robot is an embodiment of solutions to three different scientific problems; locomotion, sensing, and reasoning. Should the robot have wheels? or treads? or limbs? Should the robot sense its environment through touch? or light? or sound? How should the robot integrate measurements made by its sensors? Should the robot follow a line on the floor? or sens and follow a wall? or use dead reckoning?

Nothing teaches like experience. Thus in order to encourage students to critically examine different solutions to these fundamental problems, students will be required to physically construct a small number of different robots throughout the course. Materials will be provided. Working in small groups (3 or 4 students), each group will construct a number of different robots throughout the course. Students will be encouraged to not only build existing locomotive and sensing models, but also to explore their own designs.

Some of the technical skills that will be covered include computer programming in LEGO LOGO (a dialect of LOGO), searching techniques, graph theory, and the representation of spatial data. Although the course will cover a number of technical subjects, the fundamental goal of the course is to foster the development of analytical thinking, research, and writing skills, oral communication and other skills.

Students will be assigned to a small group (3 or 4 students per group). Each group will construct a number of different robots (tentatively four) throughout the course. The group will maintain a written and digital video log of their robot design and performance. Every other week one member of each group will give a 10 minute presentation on the status of their robot.


Robot trials and logbook evaluation     4x10%
(group based mark)
Oral presentations                      3x10%
Class participation                       10%
Research papers                         2x10%
TOTAL                                    100%



Michael Jenkin (

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Course Overview

Student Email addresses

Links to the home page for group1 , group2 , group3 , and group4 exist. As well as a list of all student email addresses. The Line Following Robot also has a home page.

Detailed Course Outline

Sept. 13. Introduction & Welcome
Course structure and overview. Introduction to mobile robots. Classic mobile robot tasks.
Sept. 20. Introduction to robots.
Establishment of groups. Tour of the facilities. The MAC environment. The wheel. Starting the journals.
Sept. 27. Locomotion.
Locomotion strategies. Providing drive and steering to a mobile robot. Use of the lab.
Oct. 4. No class.
No class this date.
Oct. 11. Wheeled Robot: Theory.
Start work on Differential drive robot. Controlling the Differential drive robot using Lego Logo.
Oct. 18. Wheeled Robot: Practice
Open loop vs. closed loop control of the Differential drive robot . Evaluation of Your Notebook.
Oct. 25. Wheeled Robot: Designs
Design and build a 2nd wheeled model (synchronous or tricycle drives for example.) Forward and inverse kinematics of these designs. Construction difficulties.
Nov. 1. Limbed Robot: Leg Design.
Introduction to limbed robots. Possible limb designs. Reaching in three-space.
Nov. 8. Limbed Robot: Gait.
Gaits and stability. Standard robotic gaits including crawl. Evaluation of your Notebook.
Nov. 15. Limbed Robots. Climbing robots
The design of a limbed robot. Thoughts about construction in lego.
Nov. 22. Guest Lecture. Val Vanstone.
Nov. 29. Sensing. Sensor Integration
Sensors available in Lego Logo. Sensor classes in mobile robotics.
Dec. 6. Term Review
General overview of the first half of the course. NB: Your logs of the differential drive with and without wheel encoders, and a tricycle drive must be finished before Christmas.
Jan. 3
Jan. 10 No class this date.
Jan. 17
Jan. 24
Jan. 31
Feb. 7
Feb. 14
Feb. 21
Feb. 28 Reading Week.
Mar. 6
Mar. 13
Mar. 20
Mar. 27
April. 3
April. 10 Last Class.

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