Underactuated Robotics

Algorithms for Walking, Running, Swimming, Flying, and Manipulation
Spring 2022

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

  • Tuesday and Thursday
  • From 2:30 to 4:00 pm EST in MIT E25-111
  • See class schedule for complete details

Office Hours

  • Alex Amice: Monday 3:30-4:30 (Room 35-308)
  • Lu: Friday 4-5pm (Room 32-370)

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

Grading Policy

Late assignments will be penalized 10% every 24 hours. Additionally, we will grant a one time (one pset) extension of up to one week without penalty.
  • Assignments: 35%
  • Midterm: 30%
  • Final Project: 35%
  • No final exam

Regrade policy

All assignments will be graded through Gradescope. The following policies apply to regrade requests.
  • Students have one week after grade posting to request a regrade request.
  • Students must come to office hours to discuss a particular problem they want regraded. The TA will then let them know it is okay to submit a regrade request on Gradescope.
  • Students who cannot make it to office hours within the week should write an email requesting a zoom meeting to discuss the regrade.
  • There will be no regrades on autograded assignments. It is the student's responsibility to be sure the autograder runs for their notebook on Gradescope.