ES.293 | Spring 2007 | Undergraduate
Lego Robotics


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session

Labs: 2 sessions / week, 2 hours / session


This course, as part of the Experimental Study Group Seminar Series, offers students the opportunity to participate in a small project-based lab class taught by an MIT upperclassman under the guidance of a faculty supervisor. Student James Rising (B.S. ‘03 Philosophy) taught this seminar for several years, sometimes in conjunction with others. Seminars taught in this format are all graded Pass/Fail and receive 1/2 of the academic credit assigned to regular academic classes.


Lego Robotics uses Legos as a fun tool to explore robotics, mechanical systems, electronics, and programming. Primarily a lab experience, this seminar provides students resources to design, build, and program functional robots constructed from Legos and a few other parts, such as motors and sensors. The class also explores other topics of interest to the students, such as digital logic, modern robotics, or artificial intelligence. Absolutely no experience with Lego, robotics, or programming is needed. Lego Robotics is a great way to try out new ideas, play with Legos, and learn some basic engineering.


Four hours of lab per week are scheduled for times convenient for both the instructor and the students. During this time students work on their current projects and the instructor is present to provide guidance.

Rules of Conduct

  1. Do not destroy or alter any Lego without permission! Legos are very expensive!
  2. Keep the lab area clean and orderly. Be sure to put Lego pieces back where you found them. Doing this will make it easier to find what you’re looking for, thus making it easier to build your robots.
  3. All of your creations should be stored in the designated area. If something is left in the work area it may be scrapped for parts.
  4. If we are short on parts, all “creations” shall be stored devoid of motors, switches, batteries, sensors, etc, and there will be a one robot limit per person.


One discussion hour per week is scheduled for a time when all students and the instructor can meet. Initially this time is allocated to the introduction and practice of skills and knowledge necessary for the class, and short descriptions of progress from each student. Once these have been covered, the class explores additional material; specific topics will depend on the interests of the students. Each student is expected to complete one fifteen minute presentation on a design complication in the realm of robotics of their choice.


Students will work on robotics projects of their own choosing over the course of the semester. There is no timeline by which one robot must be finished and another must be started; this is up to the discretion of the students. However, students should expect to build at least three or four functional robots during the semester. There will be a competition at the end of the semester in which students may choose to participate.

There are a series of “challenges”, specific project specifications or in-class competitions, over the course of the semester.  These call out particular problems in robotics, and encourage the development of specific skills.  However, challenges are only suggestions meant to inspire students, and students are encouraged to pursue their own ideas.

To get credit for a project you have to demo in front of the one of the tutors. We will then decide if your “creation” has fulfilled all the requirements for the project. If it passes, then you go on to the next project, if not, try again later.

Grading, Credit, and Attendance

This is a six-unit seminar, with grades given on a P/D/F basis. Essentially all work for this seminar is done during the scheduled lab and discussion times; thus attendance is mandatory. Students may miss no more than a total of two discussion sessions and four lab sessions and still receive a grade of a P. Missed lab sessions may be made up by coming in during a different session.

The key factor to passing this class is coming to all your lab hours every week and working on your projects. We also expect you to have lots of fun! Don’t worry if you can’t do all of the projects. We understand that everyone has different backgrounds in programming and Legos. As long as you come to lab regularly and put in some honest effort, things should be okay.