ME 4524 - Robotics & Automation

Virginia Tech, Spring 2021
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:30-4:45pm
Whittemore Hall, Room 300

SPOT Reviews

Class Average: 83.4


Robots will change the future of our society. Self-driving cars, assistive prostheses, and surgical robots are already here — what will be next? This course provides an introduction to modern robotics. You will learn the fundamental methods needed to represent, model, and control robotic systems. These tools will enable you to move forward in both research and industrial applications.


(ECE 2574, STAT 4714) or (ME 3514, STAT 3704)

Learning Objectives

Imagine that someone gives you a new robot that they have no idea how to use. By the end of this class, you will be able to: (a) model this robot from scratch, (b) solve for a motion plan that safely moves the robot from point A to point B, (c) control the robot's motors and sensors to execute this plan.


Prof. Dylan Losey
213D Goodwin Hall


  • (Primary) Modern Robotics by Lynch and Park, 2019. Download here.
  • (Secondary) Robot Modeling and Control by Spong, 2006. Download here.


Homework: 40%
Midterm: 20%
Final: 30%
Report: 5%
Participation: 5%


All readings are from Modern Robotics unless otherwise stated. I use RMC to mark a reading from Robot Modeling and Control.
Date Lecture Reading Assignment
Jan. 19 Introduction
Jan. 21 What is a Robot? 2.1, 2.2, 2.5 HW1 Out
Jan. 26 Rigid-Body Motion: Rotation 3.1, 3.2.1
Jan. 28 Rigid-Body Motion: Rotation 3.2.2, 3.2.3 HW1 Due
Feb. 2 Rigid-Body Motion: Transformation 3.3.1 HW2 Out
Feb. 4 Rigid-Body Motion: Transformation 3.3.1
Feb. 9 Rigid-Body Motion: Twists 3.3.2, 3.3.3
Feb. 11 Forward Kinematics 4.1 HW2 Due
Feb. 16 Forward Kinematics 4.1 HW3 Out
Feb. 18 Inclement Weather Day
Feb. 23 Forward Kinematics + Jacobian 5.1, 5.1.1
Feb. 25 Spring Break Day HW3 Due
March 2 Jacobian 5.1, 5.1.1 HW4 Out
March 4 Jacobian 5.1.2, 5.1.4, 5.1.5
March 9 Jacobian 5.3, 5.4
March 11 Inverse Kinematics 6.1, 6.2 HW4 Due
March 16 Midterm
March 18 Inverse Kinematics 6.1, 6.2 HW5 Out
March 23 Dynamics 3.4, 5.2
March 25 Dynamics 8.1.1 + RMC 7.1.1 HW5 Due
March 30 Dynamics 8.1.2 + RMC 7.2, 7.3, 7.4 HW6 Out
April 1 Dynamics 8.1.2 + RMC 7.2, 7.3, 7.4
April 6 Spring Break Day
April 8 Control 11.1, 11.2 HW 6 + Report Due
April 13 Control 11.4.1 + RMC 6.2, 6.3 HW7 Out
April 15 Control 11.4.1 + RMC 6.5
April 20 Control 11.4.2 + RMC 8.1
April 22 Control 11.5, 11.6 HW7 Due
April 27 Motion Planning 10.1, 10.2.1-10.2.3 HW8 Out
April 29 Motion Planning 10.5, 10.6
May 4 Future Directions HW8 Due
May 8 Final Exam 7:45-9:45am

Office Hours

Wednesdays, 1:00-2:00pm

All students are invited to attend! You don't need to have a particular question — you’re welcome to just stop by for 5 minutes and introduce yourself, or talk about a recent lecture.


There are 8 assigments, each of which is worth 5% of your final grade. Homework is due 6:00pm on Fridays. Late assignments are not accepted, except when the student has an illness or emergency. If you need to ask for an extension due to one of these reasons, this should be done before the homework deadline.


The class has a midterm and a final exam. The midterm will occur during our regular class time. Both the midterm and the final are closed book, and you are not allowed to use online resources. However, you are encouraged to prepare 2 sheets worth of notes (front and back) to reference during the test. Exams will be conducted remotely.


You will write one report that is worth 5% of your final grade. This report should summarize a robotics research article (of your choosing) published in the last 5 years. You can search for an article on google scholar, or explore a research group that is solving a problem which interests you. For example: Collab, MEDLab, or DSL. News articles (i.e., MIT Tech Review) do not count, but can also be used to find interesting research articles. Your report must be at least 1000 words. Write the report as if you were explaining the research to one of your classmates, and tie in the concepts we are covering in class!


Your participation in the class is worth 5% of your final grade. To earn full marks i) attend lecture, ii) ask or answer questions, and iii) come to office hours when you are confused.


Group discussion and collaborative work is encouraged both on the homework and when studying for exams. However, you must submit your own assignment. All assignments submitted are considered graded work, and are subject to the Honor Code. Students are not allowed to collaborate during the exams.

Services for Students with Disabilities

Every student in this course should have an equal opportunity to succeed. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers that may be due to disability, including but not limited to ADHD, chronic or temporary medical conditions, deaf or hard of hearing, learning disability, mental health, or vision impairment, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office (540-231-3788,, or visit If you have an SSD accommodation letter, please meet with me privately during office hours (or schedule an appointment) to discuss your accommodations. This meeting should occur during the first two weeks of class.

Honor Code

The Undergraduate Honor Code pledge that each member of the university community agrees to abide by states:

“As a Hokie, I will conduct myself with honor and integrity at all times. I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor will I accept the actions of those who do.”

Students enrolled in this course are responsible for abiding by the Honor Code. A student who has doubts about how the Honor Code applies to any assignment is responsible for obtaining specific guidance from the course instructor before submitting the assignment for evaluation. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the University community from the requirements and expectations of the Honor Code. Academic integrity expectations are the same for online classes as they are for in person classes. All university policies and procedures apply in any Virginia Tech academic environment. For additional information about the Honor Code, please visit:

Honor Code Pledge

The Virginia Tech honor code pledge for assignments is as follows:

``I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance on this assignment.''

The pledge is to be written out on all graded assignments at the university and signed by the student.

Academic Misconduct

If you have questions or are unclear about what constitutes academic misconduct on an assignment or exam, please speak with me. The normal sanction I will recommend for a violation of the Honor Code is an F* sanction as your final course grade. The F represents failure in the course, and * identifies a student who has failed to uphold the values of academic integrity at Virginia Tech.