Introduction to robotics

lmeca2732  2019-2020  Louvain-la-Neuve

Introduction to robotics
Note from June 29, 2020
Although we do not yet know how long the social distancing related to the Covid-19 pandemic will last, and regardless of the changes that had to be made in the evaluation of the June 2020 session in relation to what is provided for in this learning unit description, new learnig unit evaluation methods may still be adopted by the teachers; details of these methods have been - or will be - communicated to the students by the teachers, as soon as possible.
5 credits
30.0 h + 30.0 h
Ronsse Renaud;
Students are expected to master the following skills: basic knowledge in description and analysis of mechanisms, and linear control, as they are covered within the courses LMECA1210 and LINMA1510.
Main themes
Robotics is a field requiring the integration of multiple expertises. Robot design requires indeed integrating a mechanical structure, one or several actuators, one or several sensors, and a controller governing the robot behavior. This controller has also to be implemented by using the dedicated IT tools.
Historical robotics applications were mostly developed for the industry, in the late 70s. The goal of industrial robotics is automatization of fabrication processes, targeting the increase of productivity.
Later on, robotics further penetrated other application fields, characterized by unpredictable environments (while an industrial operation zone is usually unchanging and predictable). Therefore, these robots have to adapt their behavior in response to changes in the interactions with the environment. Such applications are:
  • Mobile robots (wheeled and legged robots), evolving on unknown and potentially irregular terrains.
  • Surgical robots, assisting the surgeon to reach difficult body regions, to perform very accurate gestures (out of standard human capacities), etc'
  • Rehabilitation robots, assisting patients with motor deficits to recover part of their autonomy.
  • Companion robots, providing various services like load transport, guide in a museum, etc' to one or several persons.
The goal of this course is to provide a global vision of robotics challenges to Master students, both in classical applications (industrial robotics) and in more avant-gardist applications.

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :

1 In consideration of the reference table AA of the program "Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering", this course contributes to the development, to the acquisition and to the evaluation of the following experiences of learning:
  • AA1.1, AA1.2, AA1.3
  • AA2.4
  • AA3.1, AA3.3
  • AA4.2, AA4.3, AA4.4
  • AA5.2, AA5.5
  • AA6.1, AA6.2
LMECA2732 implements an integration of different concepts covered in other courses (basic geometry, industrial automation, linear control, instrumentation and sensors, etc') in the field of industrial and mobile robotics. This course opens the perspectives to the broad field of robotics, giving access to more advanced courses and/or Master thesis.
a.        Disciplinary Learning Outcomes
At the end of this course, students will be able to:
  • Integrate and synthetize concepts and knowledge acquired in other courses to the field of robotics. Example: designing a typical linear controller for a simple robot whose kinematic and dynamic models have to be derived, and choosing the sensors to implement this controller.
  • Derive a geometrical, kinematic, and dynamic model (both forward and inverse) of a simple industrial or mobile robot, and establish some features related to these models (e.g. singularities).
  • Propose a trajectory planning method, and some classical control design approaches, taking these models into account.
  • Implement fundamental concepts like localization and trajectory planning to the particular field of mobile robotics.
  • Describe and explain the working principle of typical robot sensors.
  • Have a critical opinion regarding ethical questions related to robotics, both in industry and service robots.
  • Describe the specific features of different robot morphologies (e.g. serial industrial robots, parallel robots, mobile robots, service robots), and make links between them.
b.        Transversal Learning Outcomes
At the end of this course, students will be able to:
  • Quickly answer basic questions related to and/or applying some concepts covered during the lecture.
  • Write down a project report in a concise and efficient way, possibly including multimedia material (video').

The contribution of this Teaching Unit to the development and command of the skills and learning outcomes of the programme(s) can be accessed at the end of this sheet, in the section entitled “Programmes/courses offering this Teaching Unit”.
The course covers the following chapters:
  • Introduction
  • Mobile robot kinematics
  • Mobile robot planning and control
  • Mobile robot localization
  • Recap of LMECA2755: kinematic modeling Trajectory planning, revisited
  • Robot sensors
  • Dynamics
  • Robot control
  • Force and impedance control
  • Ethics in robotics
  • Humanoid robotics
  • Parallel robots (optional)
  • Q&A and conceptual map
A problem-based learning project in mobile robotics has to be completed by groups of 4-6 students, to apply the concepts of mobile robotics to a concrete example.
Teaching methods
The course follows a straight path, starting with trajectory planning, the derivation of models, and ending with lectures on control. The lectures specific to mobile robots are given early enough to be useful for the integrated project in mechatronics (LELME2002). One course on robot ethics given by an invited teacher is organized around S10. More open lectures on service robots, etc. are given at the end of the course.
On top of that, a project about mobile robotics is organized. This project is completed by groups of 4-6 students.
Evaluation methods
The final mark is obtained as following :
  • The final evaluation is a written exam. It lasts for about 3 to 4 hours, containing both theoretical questions, and exercises, similar to those covered during the lectures. No reference is allowed during this exam. If the student obtains 6/20 or less as final exam mark, only this will count for the final evaluation.
  • Otherwise, if the student obtains more than 6/20 as final exam mark, the final evaluation is computed as following:
    • The final written exam counts for 50% of the final mark.
    • A problem-based learning project in mobile robotics has to be completed by groups of 4-6 students, to apply the theoretical concepts to a concrete example. The mark obtained in this project will count for 40% of the final mark.
    • Finally, at the end of some lectures, a small online questionnaire will be organized, on a topic covered during the lecture. The mark obtained in these questioannaires will count for 10% of the final mark.
Other information
Basic skills in C programming are recommended for this course.
Online resources
Moodle ( is used for:
  • Managing/answering the small on-line questionnaires provided at the end of some lectures.
  • Broadcasting general information related to the course.
  • Providing all lecture slides and necessary references.
  • Managing a forum discussing/answering the questions asked by the students.
The two main references for the course are the books:
Several samples of these two books are available at the library (BST).
Chapters from other books are provided as complementary material for some specific lectures. The main reference for complementary materials is:
This book is available on-line (from the UCLouvain network).
Teaching materials
  • Lecture slides
Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Master [120] in Biomedical Engineering

Master [120] in Mechanical Engineering

Master [120] in Mathematical Engineering

Master [120] in Electro-mechanical Engineering