CS393R: Autonomous Robots -- Fall 2009

CS393R: Autonomous Robots -- Fall 2009

Instructor: Peter Stone
Department of Computer Sciences

Tuesday, Thursday 12:30-1:45pm
ECJ 1.214

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Instructor Contact Information

office hours: TBA and by appointment
office: CSA 1.140
phone: 471-9796
email: pstone@cs.utexas.edu

Teaching Assistant

Todd Hester

office hours: Wed 11:00am-12:00pm
lab: ENS 19N
email: todd AT cs.utexas.edu

Course Description

This webpage represents the course as currently planned. Changes will be made before and during the class based in part on the backgrounds of attendees.

This class is a graduate introduction to autonomous robotics. There will be some assigned readings and discussions pertaining to robotics and multi-robot systems in general. Students will learn how to program the components of a team of robots for playing soccer under the rules of the RoboCup standard platform league using Sony AIBO and/or Aldebaran Nao robots. All students will learn how to program the robots directly. Challenges to be addressed will include some or all of the following:

  • Control theory
  • Observers and tracking
  • Localization
  • Vision (segmentation and object detection)
  • Behavior
  • Applications
  • Social Implications
  • If successful, class members may have the opportunity to follow up on their work in this course towards participating in an entry in a RoboCup competition.


    Some background in artificial intelligence is recommended, but not required.


    The course textbook is:

    Sebastian Thrun, Wolfram Burgard, Dieter Fox
    Probabilistic Robotics
    MIT Press, 2005.

    This will be used as a reference, rather than as a textbook, but we will use quite a few methods from it, and it is a valuable addition to your professional library.

    Mailing List

    Please subscribe to the class mailing list. The listname is "cs393r-fall09".
    Once you have subscribed to the list, you can send mail to the class at cs393r-fall09@utlists.utexas.edu.
    Important class information may be sent to this list. It is the student's responsibility to be subscribed.

    The Lab

    location: ENS 19N
    phone: 471-9787


    Grades will be based on

  • class participation (10%);
  • written responses to the readings; (10%)
  • preliminary programming assignments (5); (50%)
  • a final programming project. (30%)
  • Reading, written, and programming assignments will be updated on the assignments page. Readings will be posted by the Tuesday before they are due (1 week in advance).

    Associated with most readings will be an assignment to send us a concise, well-thought-out, coherent written responses by email to the instructor and the TA. The email should be in plain ascii text in the body of the email (not an attachment). Please use the subject line "class readings for [due date]". The responses should be free form. Credit will be based on evidence that you have done the readings carefully. Acceptable responses include (but are not limited to):

  • Insightful questions;
  • Clarification questions about ambiguities (please specify exactly where in the text);
  • Comments about the relation of the reading to previous readings;
  • Critiques;
  • Thoughts on what you would like to learn about in more detail;
  • Possible extensions or related studies;
  • Thoughts on the paper's importance; and
  • Summaries of the most important things you learned.
  • These responses will be graded on a 10-point scale and graded mostly on coherence. Responses will be due by 10pm on Monday. Responses received between then and 11a.m. on Tuesday will be deducted 1 point (for a maximum score of 9). Responses received between then and 11a.m. on Thursday will be deducted 2 points (for a maximum score of 8). Responses received after that will be deducted 4 points (for a maximum score of 6).

    These deadlines are designed both to encourage you to do the readings before class and also to allow us to incorporate some of your responses into the class discussions.

    Extension Policy

    If you turn in your assignment late, expect points to be deducted. No exceptions will be made for the written responses to readings-based questions (subject to the ``notice about missed work due to religious holy days'' below). For other assignments, extensions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but in most cases they will not be granted.

    For the penalties on responses to the readings see above (under course requirements). For other assignments, by default, 5 points (out of 100) will be deducted for lateness, plus an additional 1 point for every 24-hour period beyond 2 that the assignment is late. For example, an assignment due at 2pm on Tuesday will have 5 points deducted if it is turned in late but before 2pm on Thursday. It will have 6 points deducted if it is turned in by 2pm Friday, etc.

    The greater the advance notice of a need for an extension, the greater the likelihood of leniency.

    Academic Dishonesty Policy

    You are encouraged to discuss assignments with classmates. But all written work must be your own. And programming assignments must be your own except for 2-person teams on the final project. All work ideas, quotes, and code fragments that originate from elsewhere must be cited according to standard academic practice. Students caught cheating will automatically fail the course. If in doubt, look at the departmental guidelines and/or ask.

    Notice about students with disabilities

    The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Dean of Students at 471-6529; 471-4641 TTY.

    Notice about missed work due to religious holy days

    A student who misses an examination, work assignment, or other project due to the observance of a religious holy day will be given an opportunity to complete the work missed within a reasonable time after the absence, provided that he or she has properly notified the instructor. It is the policy of the University of Texas at Austin that the student must notify the instructor at least fourteen days prior to the classes scheduled on dates he or she will be absent to observe a religious holy day. For religious holy days that fall within the first two weeks of the semester, the notice should be given on the first day of the semester. The student will not be penalized for these excused absences, but the instructor may appropriately respond if the student fails to complete satisfactorily the missed assignment or examination within a reasonable time after the excused absence.

    Relevant Links

  • RoboCup, the robot soccer world cup
  • UT Austin Villa
  • The official Standard Platform League page
  • RoboCup-2006 (Bremen)
  • RoboCup-2007 (Atlanta)
  • RoboCup-2008 (Sujou)
  • RoboCup-2009 (Graz)
  • Previous version of this course
  • Previous robotics course taught by this instructor
  • A 2008 class at CMU.
  • Some slides from Johns Hopkins on Bug Algorithms
  • Sven Koenig's site on LPA* and D* lite.

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