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MRSD Program Curriculum
    The degree requirements for students in the Master of Science - Robotics Systems Development (MRSD) Program at Carnegie Mellon consist of Robotics / Automation Project Courses, and Business / Management and Technical Mini-Courses. The MRSD curriculum is composed of a three-semester teaching portion (9 months) and an optional industrial internship / practicum (3 months in the summer), resulting in a 16-month long program.


    Each of the first two semesters consists of two core-courses and an elective course, as well as a project course and business/management seminars. Note that all technical-content courses are based on materials (lectures, notes, assignments, labs, etc.) compiled from various existing courses already taught by RI faculty for the existing M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree students, and upgraded in content to reflect the more applied, practical and hands-on focus of the MRSD degree:


    • 1st Semester - 1st Fall Term:
      • 1st core course: Systems Engineering and Management for Robotics
      • 2nd core course: Manipulation, Mobility & Control
      • One elective Course – Technical or Business
        • Technical: Chosen from Grad-course offering within SCS, RI, ECE, CIT; Undergraduate course requires MRSD Prgrm. Director approval
        • Business: Chosen from UG/Grad Tepper and/or Heinz School Course offering; Undergraduate course requires MRSD Prgrm. Director approval
      • One Project Course: MRSD Project I
      • One Business Course: MRSD Seminar I


    • 2nd Semester - Spring Term:
      • 3rd core course: Computer Vision.
      • 4th core course: Robot Autonomy.
      • One elective Course – Technical or Business
        • Technical: Chosen from Grad-course offering within SCS, RI, ECE, CIT; Undergraduate course requires MRSD Prgrm. Director approval
        • Business: Chosen from UG/Grad Tepper and/or Heinz School Course offering; Undergraduate course requires MRSD Prgrm. Director approval
      • One Project Course: MRSD Project II
      • One Business Course: MRSD Seminar II
    • Summer Term:
      • Optional Internship with a technical company
    • 3rd Semester - 2nd Fall Term:
      • Three elective Courses - Technical
        • Two (2) of the three (3) technical elective courses are to be chosen from the course catalog offering of the Robotics Institute offered in that semester, each being no less than 12 credits/units; Course selection needs to be approved by the MRSD Program Office / Director.
        • One (1) of the technical electives may be a technical course offered by another technical department, such as SCS or CIT (ME, ECE, CivE, etc.); Course selection needs to be approved by the MRSD Program Office/Director.
      • One Business Course:
        • MRSD Seminar III or
        • (if the above is not offered) Business Elective Course: Chosen from UG/Grad Tepper and/or Heinz School Course offering; Undergraduate course requires MRSD Prgrm. Director approval


      As of June 2013, the matrix of courses, deliverables (exams, presentations, demonstrations, etc.) are as shown in the figure below. Detailed course descriptions are also shown, and will be updated as they become available. Note that the number of units listed for each course, is meant to provide a guideline of the number of hours spent on each course in a given week; however, this number is meant purely as a guide. Many times students have spent far more time on researching the background materials, meeting in team-settings, doing homework and/or lab work, depending on their background and complexity and breadth/depth of the project or solution being implemented.


      THE TABLE BELOW REFLECTS THE UPDATED CURRICULUM AS OF MARCH 1ST 2014



      • 16-650 – Systems Engineering and Management for Robotics
      Most everything around us is a system-from the cell phone in your pocket to the International Space Station in the sky. The higher the complexity of the system, the more its creators benefit from applying formal processes to its development-processes that are collectively known under the umbrella "systems engineering." Systems engineering is not a layer of management demanding reports from the technical wizards who conceive great products. It is a formal discipline that guides a product from conception and design all the way to production, marketing, servicing, and disposal. In this course we will study the fundamental elements of systems engineering as they apply to the development robotic systems. Topics will include: requirements analysis, use case analysis, functional analysis, design synthesis and validation, system simulation, system testing, safety and reliability, user studies, manufacturability, project management (including scheduling and costing), knowledge management, and logistics and supply chain. Many of these elements will be applied in the MRSD Project Course I and II, thus giving students an opportunity to put the theory in practice in a real product design activity.


      • 16-642 – Manipulation, Mobility & Control

      This course provides an overview of the current techniques that allow robots to locomote and interact with the world. The kinematics and dynamics of electromechanical systems will be covered with a particular focus on their application to robotic arms. Some basic principles of robot control will be discussed, ranging from independent- joint PID tracking to coupled computed torque approaches. The practice and theory of robotic mobility will be investigated through various mobile robot platforms, including wheeled and tracked vehicle and legged robots. Hands-on experience with some of the topics in the class will be provided through practical demonstrations and lab assignments.


      • 16-681 & 16-682 – MRSD Project I & II

      Students will be required to participate in a two-semester on-campus lecture- and laboratory-style project course. The project course will allow students to form project teams to work on a hands-on robotics / automation topic proposed by the instructor(s) of interest to the robotics / automation industry at large. The project is intended to allow students to acquire hands-on experience and apply concepts and methods taught in class. Students will learn the interconnection of theory and practice and understand the challenges of real-world application. The setting will consist of a mix of targeted technology instruction / lectures and hands-on work in the laboratory. Students will be taught the project / technology development process all the way from developing performance-requirements/system-specifications through the technology development cycle, all the way to test-plan development and results analysis and reporting. The outcome of this two-semester course will be a final project report, coupled with a demonstration and group presentation.

      The goal of the MRSD Project Course is to provide practical experience in robotic system development ranging from specification and design to implementation and testing. Projects will be defined jointly with industrial clients, and small student teams will work with these client companies in implementing, refining, and presenting the results of their projects. The course will provide opportunities to apply principles from other MRSD courses, especially the Systems Engineering course, as well as those from the Business Seminar series. Class lectures will emphasize practical application and cover relevant topics including robotic design methodologies, system modeling, mechanical components, sensor and I/O interfacing, motor control, microcontroller and embedded control basics, basic software development methodologies, and troubleshooting. Early laboratory assignments will involve mastering these basics; later laboratory work will focus on applying the skills learned to building, integrating, testing, and iteratively refining the final projects. Student teams will have regular design reviews and other presentations of their work in various forms and forums.

      Examples of past robot system projects developed by previous teams of MRSD students can be found here.


      • 16-697 & 16-698 – MRSD Business Seminar I & II

      Students will be required to participate in a two-semester on-campus seminar-style lecture and team-project class. These two mini-courses will cover technical, business, management, finance, production, marketing & sales and writing / presentation topics at a broad yet deep enough level, to allow students to participate in individual teams towards the creation of a Technology Development Plan (TDP; akin to a Business Plan with less emphasis on detailed monthly cash-flow). Speakers from academia (technical, business) and industry (production, case-studies, etc.) will cover a myriad number of topics to provide students the foundation to be able to compose a TDP. The Technology Plan is expected to cover all aspects required by a company to define a new product development: analyze the competition and market opportunity, detail the envisioned product, lay out the development path and its required resources (personnel, facilities, hardware, etc.), plan out (time, resources & cost) the production-readiness activities, develop costing and pricing models and develop a marketing and sales plan for the product introduction. All these elements will form part of the TDP, which will be submitted as a final report and orally presented by the team to the class / faculty at the conclusion of the two-semester course.

      The course will be taught using a weekly lecture series. The format of the lectures will be based on the coverage of key topics of importance to understanding the connections between technology (design, development, etc.), management (leadership, teaming, negotiations, etc.) and business (finance, etc.), marketing/sales, intellectual property protection and manufacturing and pricing. Students will be expected to form development teams and have out-of-class team-meetings to self-organize themselves and work on their joint TDP.

      • The course syllabus includes lectures in the areas of:
          • Computer Tools
          • Communication Skills
          • Leadership, Interpersonal Management & Organizations
          • Business Opportunity Analysis & Feasibility
          • Innovation Management
          • Product Design & Development
          • Project Planning & Management
          • Financial Modeling
          • Marketing & Sales
          • Production, Operations & Supply Management
          • Industrial Case Studies


      Students will be expected to create teams and develop a TDP. Students will be encouraged to link their TDP to the project being targeted in the MRSD Project Course, where systematic design / development and hands-on activities are being targeted. Each semester will conclude with a presentation of their TDP-status and any related results/proof from their MRSD Project Course to support their conclusions.

      The course will be letter-graded and a passing-grade threshold will be set by the course instructor. This course will be lead by the MRSD Program Director and co-taught by multiple faculty from CMU’s Tepper Business School, outside industry experts and consultants.


      • 16-699 MRSD Business Seminars III

      This course will be jointly developed and taught by RI and Tepper faculty, for the first time in Fall 2014. The course will be closely tied to the Capstione Model used across multiple departments at CMU. In particular, MRSD students will be placed into teams and be tasked by the faculty to focus on a particular opportunity/problem posed by one of the robotics/automation/technology companies on the MRSD internship list. Students will be challenged to jointly develop and analyze a case-study that addresses the problem.challenge posed by the company, and be required to develop viable solutions/alternatives for the company to consider. RI and Tepper faculty will guide the process, but students are expected to work as an independent team. Student teams will be required to write a report and make a final presentation to the faculty and industry representatives. Faculty assessment of team and individual member performance, as well as industry feedback will form the basis upon which teams will be graded (individuals will receive their respective team grade).

      The course is currently still in the early phases of development, and hence is tentative for Fall 2014. More detailed materials will be made available as soon as they are released. As a default, students should be considering a Business Elective course at Tepper / Heinz as their default for now.


      • 16-720 – Computer Vision

      This course introduces the fundamental techniques used in computer vision, that is, the analysis of patterns in visual images to reconstruct and understand the objects and scenes that generated them. Topics covered include image formation and representation, camera geometry and calibration, multi-view geometry, stereo, 3D reconstruction from images, motion analysis, image segmentation, object recognition. The material is based on graduate-level texts augmented with research papers, as appropriate. Evaluation is based on homeworks and final project. The homeworks involve considerable Matlab programming exercises.

      Texts recommended but not required:

      Title: Computer Vision Algorithms and Applications
      Series: Texts in Computer Science
      Author: Richard Szeliski
      Publisher: Springer
      ISBN: 978-1-84882-934-3

      Title: Computer Vision: A Modern Approach
      Authors: David Forsyth and Jean Ponce
      Publisher: Prentice Hall
      ISBN: 0-13-085198-1

      This course is taught by a Sr. faculty member in the School of Computer Science (SCS) in both the Fall (M. Hebert) and Spring (S. Narasimhan) semesters. Details pertaining to the course can be found on the RI VASC website.


    • 16-662 – Robot Autonomy

    Robot autonomy delves into the interplay between perception, manipulation, navigation, and learning required to develop fully autonomous systems. We will focus on application domains like the home, retail, and healthcare and identify common themes and key bottlenecks. We will discuss the state of the art algorithms, their computational and hardware requirements, and their limitations. An end-to-end system often requires mixing and matching various algorithms and you will learn some tried and true methods for making systematic decisions. You will learn how to address clutter and uncertainty in manipulation tasks, develop robust object recognition algorithms in real-world scenes, navigate safely in human spaces, and build behavior engines for high-level tasks, among many other things.

    You will also exercise your learning on a real-world mobile dual-arm manipulation platform in your class project, demonstrating robot autonomy.More details on the course can be found here.

    Examples of past robot autonomy projects carried out by previous teams of MRSD students can be found here.


    Students will be encouraged (but are not required) to carry out a 3-month optional summer internship in their summer semester. The intent will be to allow them to put into practice what they have learned, and report back on the combination of technical and business / management / finance aspects of their internship, in the following Fall semester. The internship may be carried out at a partnering industrial company (or government / for-profit R&D facility). Earlier in the 1st Fall semester, participating companies / laboratories will provide brief overviews of their companies and products / activities, to allow students to form an impression of their choice internship companies. The MRSD will match students to companies using a simple ‘pairing’ process, which will include students being asked to list their 1st-thru-10th choice with companies professing preferences in terms of specialties/backgrounds for interns, which the MRSD Program Office will use to carry out a marriage/matching process, which will include résumé-book publishing, company-instigated/-led interviews, etc. Once student and company are ‘matched’, the student and company are left to negotiate the terms of the internship as a separate and standalone employment agreement subject to the company's terms.

    The MRSD Program Director and each of the companies will work out, and agree on, a potential list of topics/areas or even specific projects, that the interns would be matched to as part of the internship period in their degree program. This will be a critical step to ensure that the internship is of the appropriate level, scope and training-level for the student, as well as of utility, value and potential for the industrial employer. Individual companies will be encouraged further to develop clear internship project goals with the MRSD Program Director, which students will be expected to work on during their internship. Internships in foreign robotics / automation companies are possible, yet need to be approved by the MRSD Program Director up-front. Foreign students wishing to intern at a company in the U.S., will have to apply for, and be granted, their Curricular Practical Training (CPT; different and separate to the OPT) authorization, prior to beginning their internship in the U.S. (precludes ITAR-limitations).

    The internship is scheduled to run from June through August after the completion of the 2nd semester, allowing students sufficient time to return to campus and start their 3rd and final Fall semester.


    • XX-xxx – Technical / Business Elective 1 thru 5

    One 12-unit course per semester, in the 1st and 2nd semester, allows for the student with a particular interest in a technical or business area, to deepen their course of study. Students are required to take one (1) technical and one (1) business elective during their first two-semester course of study. Courses may be chosen from the course-catalog offered during the respective semesters by CMU, and have to be approved by the MRSD Program Director and the Teaching Faculty Member. Technology electives may be chosen from the course offerings in the schools of Robotics (RI), Computer Science (SCS), Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and College of Engineering (CIT), while Business electives (subject to availability and School / Faculty approval) may be chosen from the Tepper School of Business (Tepper) or the Heinz College (Heinz). Depending on the level of proficiency of individual students, the MRSD Program Director may require that certain incoming students be directed to subscribe to a Math-Fundamentals course as a 1st semester elective.

    In their 3rd and final (Fall) semester, students may again select an additional three (3) technical electives; all must be graduate-level courses. Two (2) of these electives need to be taken from the courses offered by the RI in said semester, while the third technical elective may be taken from any of the other science/technical departments within CMU (SCS, CIT, etc.). Note that this allows the students to both deepen and/or broaden their technical training, depending on the type and level of courses they choose.

    Any and all elective courses must be approved in advance by the MRSD Program Office Director, due to prerequisite requirements, and to ensure the student’s program plan and the MRSD’s teaching objectives are met.