Bryn Mawr College
CS380: Special Topics: Developmental Robotics
Spring 2003
Course Information

Course Description Materials Readings, Assignments Grading Links

General Information

    Professor: Douglas Blank, 246B Park Hall, 526-6501 or
    My Homepage:
    Course Homepage:
    Course notes: - Wiki notes
    Course management system: - send email to with subject 'password' to reset your password.
    Lecture Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10:00 - 11:30PM
    Lab Hours: TBA
    Room: Park 230

    Laboratory Assistants:


Course description

    This course will focus on the special topic of developmental robotics, a newly emerging paradigm of research. The goal of this research is to create intelligent robots by allowing them to go through a developmental process, rather than being directly programmed by human engineers. By endowing a robot with an appropriate initial control architecture and adaptive mechanisms, it learns through continual interactions with the world, developing self-organized mental structures. We will be studying the following sorts of questions. What should be innate in the robot? What adaptive mechanisms are needed? What motivates the robot to act? Would such a system need emotions?

    The course is made-up of two components: seminar discussions and laboratory work. Each class meeting, we will spend the first half having a discussion about the assigned readings and the second half experimenting with various robot control methods.

Books & Readings



1 1/20 Introduction none - PyroIntroduction
2 1/27 Development Rethinking Innateness Ch. 1 Drop/add ends Friday 1/31 PyroDirectControl
3 2/3 Connectionism Rethinking Innateness Ch. 2 - PyroNeuralNetworks
4 2/10 Connectionism Applications Rethinking Innateness Ch. 3 - PyroModuleNeuralNetworks Due: Fri Feb 14, 5pm
5 2/17 Self-organization No class on Thursday Midterm project assigned PyroModuleSelfOrganizingMap Due: Mon Feb 24, 5pm
6 2/24 Innateness Rethinking Innateness Ch. 6-7 - Continue midterm project
7 3/3 Developmental robotics Week 6 papers - Finish midterm project
- 3/10-3/14 Spring Break - - -
8 3/17 Developmental Robotics "Bringing Up Robot" - Lab #6
9 3/24 Computer Vision PyroModuleComputerVision Due: Mon Feb 24, 5pm Final project proposal due
Last day to withdraw Friday 3/28
Lab #7
10 3/31 Computer Vision PyroModuleComputerVision Due: Mon Feb 24, 5pm - Continue Lab #7
11 4/7 Evolutionary Systems PyroModuleEvolutionaryAlgorithms - Lab #8
12 4/14 Evolutionary Systems PyroModuleEvolutionaryAlgorithms - Continue Lab #8
13 4/21 Projects - Project presentations -
14 4/28 Projects - Project presentations -
Finals 5/8-5/17 *** No final exam *** - PROJECT DUE noon, Friday 5/16 -


  1. Fodor, J.A. (1997). Review of the book Rethinking innateness: A connectionist perspective on development. Times Literary Supplement, May 16, 1997.
  2. D. Blank, D. Kumar, and L. Meeden (2002). Bringing up robot: Fundamental mechanisms for creating a self-motivated, self-organizing architecture. Presented at the conference on Simulation and Adaptive Behavior. Available online via PostScript, and PDF
  3. Y. Munakata, J. McClelland, M. Johnson, and R. Siegler (1997). Rethinking infant knowledge: Toward an adaptive process account of successes and failures in object permanence tasks. Psychological Review, Volume 104, Number 4. Available online
  4. K. Plunkett, C. Sinha, M. Moller, and O. Strandsby (1992). Symbol grounding or emergence of symbols? Vocabulary growth in children and a connectionist net. Connection Science, Volume 4, Numbers 3 and 4.
  5. D. Mareschal, K. Plunkett, and P. Harris (1995). Developing object permanence: A connectionist model. In Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, edited by J.D Moore and J.F. Lehman, pages 170-175. Available online
  6. J. Weng, J. McClelland, A. Pentland, O. Sporns, I. Stockman, M. Sur, and E. Thelen (2001). Autonomous Mental Development by Robots and Animals. Science, Volume 291, Number 5504. Available online
  7. P. Cohen, T. Oates, N. Adams, and C. Beal (2001). Robot Baby 2001. Invited talk at the Twelfth International Conference on Algorithmic Learning Theory. Available online
  8. T. Oates (2002). An Unsupervised Algorithm for Finding Recurring Patterns in Time Series. Submitted to The Nineteenth International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML-2002). Available online
  9. C. Mautner and R. K. Belew (1999). Evolving robot morphology and control. In K. Aihara, editor, Proceedings of the Artificial Life and Robotics Conference (AROB99). Available online
  10. F. Dellaert and R. D. Beer (1994). Toward an Evolvable Model of Development for Autonomous Agent Synthesis, Artificial Life IV. Available online
  11. J. Kodjabachian and J. Meyer (1995). Evolution and development of control architectures in animats. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Volume 16, Numbers 2-4. Available online
  12. Angelo Cangelosi, Stefano Nolfi, and Domenico Parisi (In press). On Growth, Form and Computers. In press Kumar, S and Bentley, P.J (eds). Available online
  13. Frederic Gruau, Kameel Quatramaran (1996). Cellular Encoding for Interactive Evolutionary Robotics. Available online
  14. M. Schmill and P. Cohen (2001). A Motivational System That Drives the Development of Activity. University of Massachusetts Computer Science Department Technical Report 01-12. Available online
  15. Jean-Yves Donnart and Jean-Arcady Meyer (1996). Learning Reactive and Planning Rules in a Motivationally Autonomous Animat. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics - Part B: Cybernetics, Volume 26, Number 3. Available online
  16. Jeffery Elman (1993). Learning and development in neural networks: The importance of starting small. Cognition, v. 48. Available online.
  17. Stefano Nolfi and Jun Tani. Extracting Regularities in Space and Time Through a Cascade of Predicting Networks: the case of a mobile robot navigating in a structured environment. online: ps, pdf.
  18. Generalization and scaling in reinforcement learning (1990). David Ackley and Michael Littman. ps, pdf
  19. Blank, D.S., Meeden, L.A., and Marshall, J. (1992). Exploring the Symbolic/Subsymbolic Continuum: A case study of RAAM. In The Symbolic and Connectionist Paradigms: Closing the Gap. ps, pdf.
  20. Meeden, L.A., McGraw, G.E., and Blank, D.S. (1993). Emergent Control and Planning in an Autonomous Vehicle. In Proceedings of the 15th Annual Cognitive Science Society Conference. ps, pdf.

Douglas Blank