COMP 150-07: Intelligent Robotics

Computer Science Department, Tufts University


Instructor: Dr. Paulina Varshavskaya, Halligan 011, paulina [at], office hours: Tuesdays 3-4pm, Thursdays 1-2pm.
Lab Assistant: Denise Feirstein, denise.feirstein [at], office hours by appointment
Lectures/Labs: N+ block, Tuesdays (lab) and Thursdays (lecture) 6-7:15pm, with additional optional lab time on Friday afternoons. Lectures in Halligan 111A, labs in Curtis Hall CEEO.

Course website:
Course mailing list (please sign up!): To sign up:

Textbook: There is no required textbook for this course. Assigned readings will be posted to this website on the Readings page. Pointers to other texts and links can also be found there.

Using provide to submit homework: provide comp150ir hw# files, replacing # with the homework number (starting at 1), and files with the file(s) you wish to submit.


Visit opportunity to iRobot and Kiva Systems: Tuesday, April 28, leaving at 8:15am sharp from the CEEO. Email me with name(s) ASAP. If you have a car and can give rides, please let me know how many passengers you can take.

Congratulations on a job well done! Final project demos on Wednesday, April 22, were a great success. Pictures and videos will be posted as soon as they become available.

Lab demo videos are now embedded into the Labs page. Quicktime .mov format.

Drawings of robots

Attendance on Tuesday, January 20th (Curtis Hall CEEO) is mandatory if you want to take the class. We will check out Lego kits and start Lab 1.

The last Lab of this course will be held on a special date and time: Wednesday, April 22nd, 12 noon - open block, there will be final project demos together with ME184, the Advanced Robotics class from Mechanical Engineering. See course schedule.

Course description

This new course introduces the science and design of robots - engineered artifacts which are both computational and physically embodied, and whose programmed behavior may be described as intelligent. We will explore principles and algorithms for computation in the physical world. Topics covered include behavior-based embodied artificial intelligence, kinematics and inverse kinematics, geometric reasoning, motion planning, mapping, and manipulation, as well as dynamics, biologically inspired and biomimetic robotics, distributed robotics and intelligence, and some philosophical questions pertaining to the nature of intelligence in the physical world.

The class contains significant lab work, where the students design, build and program small-scale yet non-trivial robots using Lego Mindstorms NXT building blocks. We will use the NXC language to program the robots. This class will meet with ME184 Robotics on Tuesday, April 21 during the open block for end-of-term project demos.

Prerequisites: programming (COMP15 or COMP14) and mathematics (discrete math - MATH22 and familiarity with basic calculus). Differential equations very helpful. Enrollment limited to 20 students.

Learning objectives

Robotics includes elements of science, engineering, and philosophy, as well as a lot of team work and communication. At the end of the course, the students will be able to:

Expectations and policies

This class is not easy, and it involves a committment on the students' part to work hard every week on readings, labs and homeworks. The labs held on Tuesdays at the CEEO provide a practical introduction to the team homework component. Teams will then need to meet on their own in order to complete the homework by the due date (usually the following Tuesday lab). Design and implementation of physical systems like robots is a lengthy process that you cannot leave until the last minute. Repeated failure of early designs is expected and encouraged -- that's the only way to learn robotics in practice. So it is expected that students will put in many hopefully fun hours outside of class working on the designs for their homeworks and projects. On the plus side, there are no exams and you get to play with LEGOs.

Grading criteria

The class has no exams. The grade will be calculated as a weighted average of homeworks, labs, and projects as follows:

Homeworks have an individual component that must be handed in electronically using the provide system by 6:00pm (beginning of class) on the due date. They also have a team (lab) component that is due in form of a demo in class on the due date and will be graded according to specific criteria described in each lab. All team members must be present during demos for their grade to count.

Late policy

No late demos of labs or projects will be accepted due to the physical constraints of the class. You must demonstrate your system in class on the date the relevant homework is due. The class schedule will have up-to-date information on when each homework, including lab components, is due. Late demos will not be accepted.

Late individual and written homework and project components will not be accepted unless you have severe extenuating circumstances. Such circumstances should be discussed with the instructor ahead of time. Ahead of time means at the beginning of the term, or as soon as they arise, but definitely not within a couple of hours of the due date and time.

Teamwork and collaboration policy

You will be working in teams for most of the course, including on the lab components of homeworks and on both projects. Good teamwork is essential to this course and to robotics, and will be reflected in your grades. As a team member, contribute your strengths to the effort but don't forget to work on your weaknesses.

Demos will be judged and graded as a team effort. All team members must be present at the demo to get a grade. Team write-ups should have all team members' names on them and describe the contribution of each member. Individual homework and project components must be written and handed in individually, although discussion of ideas and study groups are encouraged.

In all cases, plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty will not be tolerated. Any help you got with homeworks and projects must be acknowledged. Any published and unpublished sources must be cited. Please see the booklet Academic Integrity available from the Dean of Students' Office.


If you have a disability, please contact the Disabilities Coordinator at the Student Services to discuss and request reasonable accommodations we can make for you.