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The task

Sign up for practicals

Please, form a team of 3 people and write down your names and the day you would like to do the practical in this sign up sheet.

If you didn't manage to find a team, put your name down on the list on the bottom of the sheet and we will assign you to a team.

Practical times

forrest_hill.jpgMondays 11.00 - 13.00 (Forrest Hill G.A11)

Thursdays 11.00 - 13.00 (Forrest Hill G.A11)

Forrest Hill Floor Plan

The time allocated for practicals will be used to assess the milestone (subtask) completion, for discussion and resolving issues. The work on the robots is intended to be done mainly outside the practical times. Please respect other classes that might be having practicals in the lab.


How will the practicals be done?

  1. Decide whether you want to attend the Monday or the Thursday session (by 19/09/2016 - Monday of week 1).
  2. Form a team of 3 students, collect the kit, and learn how the kit works/connects. (Kit handout - week 1)
  3. Build a robot and start programming it. Ask the demonstrators if you require help with mechanics, electronics, or programming.
  4. Work on minor milestones in your own time and discuss them during the lab sessions ( week 2 - week 4)
  5. Demonstrate your work on major milestone 1 during the lab session (week 5)
  6. Work on minor milestones in your own time and discuss them during the lab sessions ( week 5 - week 8)
  7. Demonstrate your work on major milestone 2 during the lab session (week 9)
  8. Submit the final report (21/11/2016 - Monday of Week 10)
  9. Dismantle the robot and return the kit (24/11/2016 - Thursday of Week 10)


There will be a written homework due on Friday 11th November (week 8) as part of this course and you will have to manage your workload between different courses, so plan your time accordingly!

The task

Your robot is expected to move around the lab, collect as many resources (boxes) as it can, and bring them to a predetermined base. Each resource will be a box with a predefined texture. The arena may also contain resources which are not supposed to be collected by the robot. These boxes may be marked with a different pattern or be found in a particular location in the arena. The base will be marked with a black patch on floor. The location of the resources and the bases will assigned randomly for each run but the shape (map) of the arena will be provided. The robot should use the camera to identify the resources and determine the robot position in the arena. There will always be resources and bases for two teams in the arena. There will be only one robot in the arena during the preliminary rounds, however, two robots will be competing at the same time during the final rounds.

Test area

 arena arena-with-landmarks




Marking scheme

The marking scheme for the course is:
Exam - 50%
Homework - 10%
Practical - 40%

Late Coursework & Extension Requests
Academic Misconduct

The practical will be marked based on two major milestones, the final competition and the final report.

Each major milestone will be marked on the day based on quality of the demonstrated material. Minor milestones are not marked.

Together with the major milestones (1 and 2), each GROUP will submit a short report describing their implementation using bullet points (one report per group highlighting the techniques used).

The final competition will be marked based on successful integration of the work from the milestones and the placement in the competition.

The largest chunk of the marks will be given based on the individual final report that will be handed in on the competition day.

The practical marking scheme:

  • Major milestone 1 - 12%

    • Autonomous operation - 1%
    • Collision free navigation - 3%
    • Localisation - 4%
    • Short report - 2% (this is a group report)
  • Major milestone 2 - 12%

    • Resource identification - 4%
    • Resource collection - 4%
    • Short report - 2% (this is a group report)
  • Final report - 16%
    • Evaluation - 10% (Individual analysis of the performance and choices made throughout the design process)
    • Writing - 6% (this includes, quality of the description of the methods used, clarity and completeness, justification of methods used)
    • The report will be submitted INDIVIDUALLY by each student (NO group submissions).


  • All marks are percentage of the total mark for the whole course.


There are types of milestones: major and minor.

  • The minor milestones will help you to stay on track with the work on weekly basis but they are NOT marked. If you fall behind on the minor milestones, you may catch up the next week without any penalty. We do strongly recommend to keep up to speed with the minor milestones and we encourage you to discuss them with the demonstrators during the lab sessions regularly.
  • The major milestones will be used to evaluate your progress and the are marked. If you fall behind on the major milestones, you will loose marks. You will have to demo your work during the practical time slot. Late submission are not allowed!
    Subsequent tasks must include subtasks you have completed in the previous weeks. For example, a robot able to identify the resources should still be able to avoid obstacles.
    After completing the major milestone, we will provide a example solution. You can use this solution to improve your own code (if the example performs better than your own) or you can use it to catch up if you have fallen behind on your work.

Milestones breakdown:

Week 3 - Minor - Autonomous operation

  • Suitable mechanical design.
  • Forward and turning motion.
  • Autonomous operation - no connection to the network.

Week 4 - Minor - Collision free navigation

  • Obstacle avoidance.
  • Recovery when obstacle avoidance fails.
  • Avoid getting stuck
  • When provided with location, navigate to a different room.

Week 5 - MAJOR MILESTONE 1 - Localisation

  • Detect unique features in the environment.
  • Based on the features determine robot position.
  • Navigate to the specified base location.

Week 6 - Minor -

  • Autonomous operation - no connection to the network (moving and turning).
  • Navigate from room A to room B without collisions of successfully recovering from collisions.
  • Correctly identify the room the robot is in.
  • Full marks will be given when the robot can localize itself (identify room A) and navigate to room B without collisions (or getting stuck) and intervention.

Week 7 - minor - Resource localisation

  • Find resources in the current room, distinguishing them from other objects (possibly from far away).
  • Explore the room if necessary.
  • Report that the room contains useful resources or that it is empty and another room should be explored.

Week 8 - Minor - Resource identification and collection

  • Distinguish between resource types (you can assume the resource if fairly close at this point).
  • Localize an resource of interest.
  • Approach the resource and collect/trap it.


  • Localize and identify a resource inside the current room.
  • Collect the correct resource.
  • Full marks will be given when the robot finds, correctly identifies and collects the requested resource.

Week 10 - Final report and kit collection

  • Navigate to home base without loosing the collected resource.
  • Explore different rooms to find out all the resources.

Advice on writing final report

The final report will be written individually and it will contain complete description of the robot developed during the course. The milestone reports will be reused and expanded upon in the final report. This is where the overlap between work done by individual team members will be present and permitted. The rest of the report will be completely individual, e.g. introduction, problem description,evaluation, conclusion.

Note that most of the marks for the practicals come from the write-up of the final report. It may help to think of this as a (short) equivalent of how robot projects are reported in scientific papers, for example. Here's an outline of what your report should contain:

Title: A 4-12 word title that would allow an unfamiliar reader to know what your report is about.

Abstract: You MUST preface the report with a 100-200 word summary of what it contains. This is usually easier to write when you have finished the report. It should briefly explain the task, the approach used, the results and the conclusions drawn. Avoid making entirely generic statements that could apply to almost anything, e.g., (BAD) "This report describes the construction of a robot to perform a task. We describe the design decisions and outline the control program, then explain the results and possible improvements". Instead make it specific to what you have done, e.g., (GOOD) "We have built a robot capable of searching for and recognising special locations in a lab environment. It uses two IR sensors to avoid obstacles, and a low cost camera to recognise resources and target locations, as well as a sonar sensor for navigation. We implement a subsumption control architecture. The robot was tested in five time trials and was able to locate an average of 4 resources and 3 target locations within that time. The main limitation was that our robot was unable to reliably plan its route to the next location but relied on random search".

Introduction: This should explain the task, and give an overview of how you approached it. In a normal scientific report this would include reference to previous work (your own or others). You are not required in this case to refer to other work (although you may wish to do so if for example something you read about influenced your approach to the task). So this section is likely to be quite short (400 words).

Methods: A good rule of thumb here is that someone reading your report should be able to replicate your approach. So you need to provide a good description of the physical architecture, particularly the type, number and position of sensors and actuators. Include labelled photographs or diagrams, and make sure the dimensions are clear. Comment on factors that led to the design, explaining the decisions you made. For the control program you should provide a flow diagram or pseudo-code description, and again explain the reasoning that led to this solution. This is likely to be the longest section of the report. Do not include code except for short snippets that help explain a crucial part of the program you created. Avoid repetition and refer to other peoples' work instead of describing well known algorithms. (1400 words)

Results: This should contain some quantitative evaluation of the robot performance. For example: that it can find a resource site from a disance of x metres, and recognise and leave within t seconds; etc. If your robot is not capable of doing the final task, you should evaluate what it does do correctly, and try to analyse what it does wrong. The reader should be left with an accurate understanding of exactly what your robot is capable of, even if this is not as good as you hoped. Bad results are results too. You get marked based on how you approached the problem and how you evaluated the results. (800 words)

Discussion: Start by summarising the results, and giving your evaluation of how well it works. Explain what you think were the most successful elements of your approach, and what was less successful. Include ideas about how the system could be improved. (200 words)

Length: The final report should be no more than 3000 words long. It can be shorter if you think that you can do a satisfactory description in fewer words.

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