Underactuated Robotics

Algorithms for Walking, Running, Swimming, Flying, and Manipulation
Spring 2020

Course Description

Robots today move far too conservatively, using control systems that attempt to maintain full control authority at all times. Humans and animals move much more aggressively by routinely executing motions which involve a loss of instantaneous control authority. Controlling nonlinear systems without complete control authority requires methods that can reason about and exploit the natural dynamics of our machines.

This course introduces nonlinear dynamics and control of underactuated mechanical systems, with an emphasis on computational methods. Topics include the nonlinear dynamics of robotic manipulators, applied optimal and robust control and motion planning. Discussions include examples from biology and applications to legged locomotion, compliant manipulation, underwater robots, and flying machines.

Course Information

Class Time and Location

Office Hours

  • Monday
  • From 5:00 to 6:30 pm EST
  • Room 34-303

Grading Policy

  • Assignments: 40%
  • Midterm: 30%
  • Final Project: 30%
  • No final exam

Useful Links


  • Basic linear algebra and differential equations
  • Coding assignments will be in Python
  • Some backgound material can be found here
  • See the FAQs if you have any questions about prerequisites