Robotics Specialization Opens On Coursera
Written by Sue Gee   
Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Coursera's first Robotics Specialization consists of a series of five-courses from Penn, the fourth oldest institution of higher education in the United States and currently among the top league when it comes to robotics. The first two courses have just started and enrollment is open until February 20th.


The announcement of the specialization on Penn Online Learning Initiative answered the question "Why Robotics?" saying:

In recent years, robots have evolved from what used to resemble remote-controlled toys into complicated autonomous agents with sophisticated mapping technologies, coordination capabilities, and applications to a wide variety of areas, including military and agricultural. Very much at the forefront of these advancements are researchers at Penn robotics laboratory: GRASP.

On I Programmer we've come across GRASP, the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Laboratory which acts as a robot incubator several times before. We've reported its success with robot football, teaching robots to read and quadrotors and also covered Vijay Kumar's TED Talk, see Robots That Fly.


The first of the courses that make up the Robotics Specialization is a practical introduction to Aerial Robotics and is taught by Vijay Kumar, head of the Kumar Lab and Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn's School of Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS). It is a 4-week course that started February 15 and provides: 

an introduction to the mechanics of flight and the design of quadrotor flying robots and will be able to develop dynamic models, derive controllers, and synthesize planners for operating in three dimensional environments.

The second course in the specialization, which started at the same time and also runs for 4 weeks is on Computational Motion Planning and explores the problem of how a robot decides what to do to achieve its goals. Taught by CJ Taylor, Professor of Computer and Information Science in SEAS it starts with Graph-based planning  and includes weekly programming assignments using MATLAB which is provided free for course members, including those who are following it for free.

The remaining courses on the specializations are on Mobility (starting March) Perception (April) and Estimation and Learning (May), all 4 weeks in length and taught by GRASP faculty. For those enrolled on the specialization, the Capstone (starting in June) will include a hands-on component and a simulation involving navigation, mobility, and manipulation tasks. In the future, course faculty hope to provide students with the ability to test code remotely on a real robot.

As with all Coursera specializations, courses are offered on a regular schedule so if you've missed the first cohort you can join in a future presentation. Meanwhile if you want a taster here's the promo video with Vijay Kumar. 



As this specialization is new there are no reviews of it as yet. However, there does seem to be a good deal of interest and enthusiasm for it.

More Information

Robotics Specialization

Aerial Robotics

Computational Motion Planning 



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Coursera Offers CS Specialization Certificates



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Last Updated ( Saturday, 11 June 2016 )