Mellon University Robocamp
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Carnegie Mellon University presents a course in Robotic Autonomy in collaboration with NASA Ames as part of its West Coast Initiative

Robotic Autonomy is a new course introducing comprehensive issues governing mobile robotics in a challenge-based, hands-on laboratory. Topics that will be covered fall under four main categories:

  • Mechanism for mobile robots
  • Actuation: DC motors and servoes for robot motion
  • Perception: Basic sensing and vision for obstacle avoidance and target tracking
  • Cognition: Mobile robot teleoperation, obstacle avoidance, path planning, and intelligent decision-making for long-term missions
Students will attent morning and afternoon laboratory, five days a week, for 7 weeks. PLEASE NOTE: every student must supply a functioning portable computer for their own use developing autonomy software throughout the summer. This computer must have a 300Mhz or better processor running either Windows 98SE or newer, or running Linux.

Working in teams of two, students will build two large mobile robots, design and build vision systems for their robots, and then program the robots for both low-level control and high-level autonomous decision-making for the remainder of the summer course. By introducing progressively more challenging weekly contests and providing critical information in lectures, Robotic Autonomy will build incrementally on the students' knowledge and the robot systems until, at the completion of the course, the students can perform activities with their robot such as:

  • Take the robot for a walk on the sidewalk
  • Use the robot to conduct a science survey of a room
  • Track and identify a moving target throughout a cluttered space
  • Provide wireless telepresence for the robot operator over the internet
At the conclusion of the course, each graduating student will take home one of the vision-based robots, enabling him or her to further pursue robotic autonomy and participate in a continuing robotics community of activities.


This course provides 12 units of Carnegie Mellon University curriculum credit, and therefore requires each student to pay a tuition of $2,544 for the 7-week summer course. Families needing assistance to pay the tuition are encouraged to apply for financial aid. All financial aid is awarded on the basis of financial need as determined by a review of the financial aid application and tax forms. The Robotic Autonomy Financial Aid form is available here.

Technical Specifications

Each robot will be equipped with the following:

  • Pan/tilt servo head
  • CMUcam vision system
  • PIC-based motor controller and I/O system
  • StrongARM main processor with 802.11b
  • Custom chassis kit designed for Robotic Autonomy

For more information please contact the course instructor, Illah Nourbakhsh.

Robotic Autonomy Home