Education: Robotics Track at Utah

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The Robotics Track is a program of study that may be taken either in the School of Computing, the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, or the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Regardless of the department, students undertake similar coursework and are able to be supervised by robotics faculty in any department.

Prospective students will choose one of the departments to apply to, guided primarily by undergraduate preparation and by which department the student wishes the graduate degree to be in. Admissions procedures for the three departments are different, and there are slight differences in the program of study. All three departments offer M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. The M.S. program may be taken as a course-only option, a project option, or thesis option.

Undergraduate degrees in engineering, science, applied mathematics or computer science are all excellent backgrounds from which to approach robotics and apply to the Robotics Track. Students are expected to be strong mathematically, and to have some experience working with mechanical, electrical, or computer hardware. Advanced programming skills are desirable but not necessary for admission, since the requisite skills will be taught.

Financial support is typically offered for Ph.D. students and for thesis M.S. students, through teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships. Our admissions standards are high, and hence the competition is rigorous for the limited number of open positions in the Robotics Track. Admission is based on an evaluation of an applicant’s academic profile and research potential. Students with strong technical backgrounds, an intellectual curiosity about robotics, and an interest in hands-on experience with robots are encouraged to apply. We especially encourage applications from women and under-represented minorities.

The curriculum covers the fundamental elements of robotics (mechanics, control, cognition, and perception) in four core courses. Students also select 2-3 elective courses from at least two of the following elective categories: Mechanics (e.g., Mobility & Manipulation, System Identification), Control (e.g., Classical Control, Adaptive Control), Cognition (e.g., Artificial Intelligence, Robot Learning), Perception (e.g., Computer Vision, Digital Signal Processing), Human-Robot Interaction (e.g., Haptics, Neural Engineering), and Robot Design (e.g., Advanced Mechatronics, Robotic Millisystems). Other courses are selected by students to tailor their studies for their particular research topics or interests and departmental requirements. This interdisciplinary training will prepare a student to pursue any topic in robotics, and to broadly approach many technical problems of interest to society.

For more information about the Robotics Track and Admission, please contact John Hollerbach (jmh@cs.utah.edu) for the School of Computing, Jacob George (jacob.george@utah.edu) for the Department of Electrical Engineering, or Mark Minor (minor@mech.utah.edu) for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Required Courses and Links

All students must follow the general framework when taking courses under the Robotic Track:

GradTrack

All Programs:

    • Take 1 core course from each of the areas (4 courses total, ~12 credits): Mechanics, Control, Cognition, Perception
    • Enroll in 1 credit of the Robotics Seminar for two semesters
    • Continue to attend Robotics Seminar every semester in the program
    • Complete a minimum of 30 credits
    • At least 18 hours of coursework must be at the 6000- or 7000-level classes

PhD Programs:

    • Choose 3 pre-approved robotics electives (including any not already counted as core courses) from at least two of the areas: Mechanics, Control, Cognition, Perception, Human-Robot Interaction, Robot Design
    • Remaining credits towards the 30-credit requirement can be from any graduate-level Engineering, Math, Science, or committee-approved courses (~3 classes; see Supporting Electives for recommended courses)
    • Students with a MS degree from the University of Utah may count all eligible course credits towards the 30-credit requirement
    • Students with a MS degree from another university may count up to 18 credits (~6 classes) towards the 30-credit requirement, with committee approval
    • Complete 14 credits of dissertation research

MS Thesis Programs:

    • Choose 2 pre-approved robotics electives (including any not already counted as core courses) from at least two of the areas: Mechanics, Control, Cognition, Perception, Human-Robot Interaction, Robot Design
    • Complete 6-9 credit hours of thesis research
    • Remaining credits towards the 30-credit requirement can be from any graduate-level Engineering, Math, Science, or committee-approved courses (~1 class; see Supporting Electives for recommended courses)

MS Project Programs:

    • Choose 2 pre-approved robotics electives (including any not already counted as core courses) from at least two of the areas: Mechanics, Control, Cognition, Perception, Human-Robot Interaction, Robot Design
    • Complete 3-6 credit hours of Independent/Special Studies
    • Remaining credits towards the 30-credit requirement can be from any graduate-level Engineering, Math, Science, or committee-approved courses (~2-3 classes; see Supporting Electives for recommended courses)

MS Non-Thesis (Coursework) Programs:

    • Choose 3 pre-approved robotics electives (including any not already counted as core courses) from at least two of the areas: Mechanics, Control, Cognition, Perception, Human-Robot Interaction, Robot Design
    • Remaining credits towards the 30-credit requirement can be from any graduate-level Engineering, Math, Science, or committee-approved courses (~3 classes; see Supporting Electives for recommended courses)

Minor differences between CS/ECE/ME Programs:

    • ME students are not eligible to take the MS Project option, but can take up to 3 credit hours of Independent/Special Studies in the MS Non-Thesis Program.
    • ECE MS-Thesis students are required to complete 10 credit hours of thesis research (ECE 6970)
    • ME PhD students take a total of 33 credits instead of 30 credits, but this can include robotics seminar credits.
    • CS PhD students take a total of 50 credits; 27 credits must be graduate-level courses (does not include seminar credits).
    • PhD students with an MS degree from outside the University of Utah can count up to 15, 18 or 21 credits towards their robotics degree in CS, ECE and ME respectively.
    • All students should use the information on this page as a general guideline. The most up-to-date information can be found in your respective graduate student handbook or obtained from your director of graduate studies.

 

The Robotics Track is a program of study that may be taken either in the School of Computing or the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The field of robotics has expanded tremendously since its early focus on industrial robots, and now includes very diverse topics such as autonomous vehicles, medical robots, smart sensor networks, micro robots, robot vacuum cleaners, sentry robots, and pet robots.

M.S. in Computing, Robotics Track

A student may pursue an MS with a thesis option, a project option, or a course-only option. Of the graduate course-work, there are four required core courses and two required seminars. Students must take two additional courses from two different areas of the restricted electives.  One additional elective course, directly related to the student’s degree, at the 6000-level or higher (not including independent study, seminars, or thesis research credit hours) from any department is required.

Ph.D. in Computing, Robotics Track

Of the graduate course-work, there are four required core courses and two required seminars. An additional three courses must be taken from at least two areas of the restricted electives.  Two additional elective courses at the 6000-level or above (not including independent study, seminars, or thesis) from any department are required. 

Required Courses

The starred (*) courses are required.  One of the double starred courses (**) in Cognition and in Perception must be taken.  CS 7939 – Robotics Seminar must be taken in 1 fall and in 1 spring semester.

Electives

Pre-approved robotics electives: Choose 3 (2 for MS thesis) electives from at least 2 of the 6 following areas if not taken as a Required Course.

 

Mechanics

CS 6310 – Introduction to Robotics *

CS 7310 – Robot Mobility and Manipulation

CS 7320 – System Identification for Robotics

 

Control

CS 6330 – Introduction to Robot Control *

ME EN 6200 – Classical Control

ME EN 6210 – State Space Control

ME EN 7200 – Nonlinear Controls

ME EN 7210 – Optimal Controls

ECE 6570 – Adaptive Control

 

Cognition

CS 6300 – Artificial Intelligence **

CS 6370 – Motion Planning **

CS 6350 – Machine Learning

CS 6958 – Robot Learning

 

Perception

CS 6640 – Image processing **

CS 6320 – 3D Computer Vision **

CS 7640 – Advanced Image Processing

CS 6955 – Deep Learning for Image Analysis

 

Human-Robot Interaction

CS 6360 – Virtual Reality

CS 6540 – Human-Computer Interaction

ME EN 7240 – Haptics for Virtual Reality, Teleoperation, and Physical Human-Robot Interaction

 

Robot Design 

ME EN 6240 – Advanced Mechatronics

ME EN 7960 – Wearable Robotics

ECE 6670 – Control of Electric Motors

M.S. in ECE, Graduate Robotics Track

A student may pursue an M.S. with a course-only option, a project option, or a thesis option. The Graduate Robotics Track requires four core courses, plus two to three electives. The minimum number of credits is 30. At least 18 hours of coursework must be at the 6000- or 7000-level classes. Besides the Graduate Robotics Track requirements, students must also satisfy certain requirements set by the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, depending on the thesis or non-thesis option. Project option: a minimum of 3 credit hours and a maximum of 6 credit hours of Independent/Special Studies (ECE 6950) are permitted and will count towards the 30 credit hours of required coursework. Thesis option: 10 credit hours of thesis research (ECE 6970) are required and will count towards the 30 credit hours of required coursework.

Example Program of Study for an M.S. in ECE, Graduate Robotics Track 
Below is one possibility for a program of study that satisfies the thesis option degree requirements. Note that there are many possible options and that this is just one example of a project option with an emphasis on robotic control. Course-based or project-based programs would replace thesis credits with additional elective classes and/or Independent Studies (ECE 6950).

ECE Robotics MS Example

Ph.D. in ECE, Graduate Robotics Track

The Graduate Robotics Track requires four core courses, plus three electives. The minimum number of credits is 30. At least 18 hours of coursework must be at the 6000- or 7000-level classes. Besides the Graduate Robotics Track requirements, students must also satisfy certain requirements set by the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. 14 credit hours of dissertation research (ECE 7970) are required and do not count towards the 30 credit hours of required coursework.

Example Program of Study for an Ph.D. in ECE, Graduate Robotics Track
Below is one possibility for a program of study that satisfies the PhD degree requirements. Note that there are many possible options and that this is just one example of a PhD program of study with an emphasis on NeuroRobotics.

ECE Robotics PhD Example

M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Robotics Track

A student may pursue an M.S. with a thesis or non-thesis option. The Robotics Track requires three core courses, plus three courses from restricted electives (see track courses for details). The minimum number of credits is 30. Besides the Robotics Track requirements, students must also satisfy certain requirements set by the Department of Mechanical Engineering, depending on the thesis or non-thesis option.

Example Program of Study for an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Robotics Track 
Below is one possibility for a program of study that satisfies the thesis-option degree requirements. Non-thesis students would substitute additional courses for thesis credits in order to meet M.S. Non-Thesis degree requirements.


Year 1 Fall SemesterYear 1 Spring Semester
NumberTitleCreditsNumberTitleCredits
CS 6310Introduction to Robotics3ME 6960Introduction to Robot Control3
CS 7939Robotics seminar1ME 6240Advanced Mechatronics3
?? 6000Elective courses6CS 7939Robotics seminar1
ME 6975Thesis credits2?? 6000Elective course3
Semester Total12ME 6975Thesis credits2
  Semester Total12
 
Year 2 Fall SemesterYear 2 Spring Semester
NumberTitleCreditsNumberTitleCredits
CS 6320Computer Vision3CS 7320System Identification for Robotics3
CS 6370Motion Planning3ME 7960Haptics3
?? 6000Elective course3?? 6000Elective course3
ME 6975Thesis credits3ME 6975Thesis credits3
Semester Total12Semester Total12

 

Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, Robotics Track

Three core courses are required, plus three additional courses from restricted electives (see track courses for details). Robotics Track students must also satisfy Department of Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. degree requirements, which depend on whether the student is entering the Ph.D. program as a B.S. or M.S. graduate.


Year 1 Fall SemesterYear 1 Spring Semester
NumberTitleCreditsNumberTitleCredits
CS 6310Introduction to Robotics3ME 6960Introduction to Robot Control3
CS 7939Robotics seminar1ME 6240Advanced Mechatronics3
?? 6000Elective courses8CS 7939Robotics seminar1
Semester Total12?? 6000Elective courses5
  Semester Total12
 
Year 2 Fall SemesterYear 2 Spring Semester
NumberTitleCreditsNumberTitleCredits
CS 6320Computer vision3CS 7320System Identification for Robotics3
CS 6370Motion Planning3CS 6360Virtual Reality3
ME 7970Thesis Directed Research6ME 7970Thesis Directed Research6
Semester Total12Semester Total12
 
Year 3 Fall SemesterYear 3 Spring Semester
NumberTitleCreditsNumberTitleCredits
?? 6000Elective courses6?? 6000Elective courses6
ME 7970Thesis Directed Research6ME 7970Thesis Directed Research6
Semester Total12Semester Total12

 

For more information about the Robotics Track and Admission, please contact John Hollerbach (jmh@cs.utah.edu) for the School of Computing, Jacob George (jacob.george@utah.edu) for the Department of Electrical Engineering, or Mark Minor (minor@mech.utah.edu) for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Additionally, please visit the department websites for School of Computing, Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering for more details about the graduate program and admissions: