T395 Mechatronics: designing intelligent machines

Level: 3        Credit points: 30


This course is primarily for engineers who want to understand the principles and methods applicable to designing mechatronic systems. It supplies two volumes, Perception, Cognition and Execution and Concepts in Artificial Intelligence, and four video programmes that explain some concepts in artificial intelligence and their applications. The SmartLab home laboratory is used extensively to teach communications, pattern recognition, neural networks, scheduling and search, rule-based systems, fuzzy logic and blackboard systems, intelligent control, and the applications of these to an intelligent vehicle built with the home experiment kit.


The design of intelligent machines is a new subject area that has recently emerged from the practical need for machines that can work autonomously under conditions of some uncertainty, that is, in situations where unpredictable events occur. This course takes you very close to uncharted research territory.

The course includes more material about information processing and artificial intelligence than about mechanical or electronic engineering. By the end of it you should be able to:

bulletCommunicate with both experts and novices in the field, using appropriate terminology.
bulletUnderstand books and articles about intelligent machines, and continue to develop the knowledge and skills you have acquired.
bulletTake part in teamwork specifying and designing intelligent machines.
bulletRecognise and assess opportunities for the use or development of intelligent machines.

The central element of the course is SmartLab, eight activities using an integrated set of computer programs and a home experiment kit. It gives you exciting opportunities to perform some advanced experiments on your computer screen and on your kitchen table. The topics taught include communications, pattern recognition, neural networks, scheduling and search, rule-based systems, fuzzy logic, blackboard systems and intelligent control.

The course is organised in five sections: Introduction, Perception, Cognition, Execution, Integration. Volume 1 of the textbook, Perception, Cognition and Execution, gives background information about intelligent machines and their main functional subsystems: perception, cognition and execution. It also includes a survey of the concept of architecture and describes approaches to designing mechatronic products. Volume 2, Concepts of Artificial Intelligence, presents concepts and techniques of artificial intelligence that are applicable in practical situations. You will be expected to use these concepts and techniques in design and analysis exercises and in SmartLab.