Virtual Robotics Lab (Behavior-Based or "Bottom-up")
Contributors:  Josh de Leeuw: Author, Programming
Ken Livingston: Author



An ethologist is a scientist who tries to learn why animals behave as they do by studying them in their natural environments. By careful observations, the ethologist begins to understand events and objects animals notice, and what rules or principles guide the animal’s reactions to those events. This sounds easy enough, but building a theory about the causes of behavior from such observations can be quite difficult. One of the reasons for this is that very simple systems of rules can give rise to surprisingly complicated behavior. Observers sometimes have trouble seeing the simple rules behind the behavior, tending to attribute more complexity than is really there. This same principle is at work in behavior-based robotics, where the rules that govern how a robot behaves are often quite simple. But the final behavior produced by the robot depends on how those rules interact with the environment in which the robot operates. In the robo-ethology exercise you will play the role of the scientist observing behavior and trying to figure out what rules are creating it. This exercise is designed to help you understand one of the most basic ways of making a robot behave in an intelligent way. If you have a real robot, you can find detailed instructions about how to proceed here. But you can still complete the exercise using a virtual robot if you don’t have a real one.


Virtual Behavior-Based Robotics Lab

Observe the behavior of a mobile robot interacting with its environment. Then, design your own hiearchy of robot-behaviors to replicate the behavior of the "target" robot. In the process you will be introduced to the elegance of "bottom-up" robotics.

MORE Robotics Curriculum & Virtual Labs

In addition to our Behavior-Based ("Bottom-Up") Robotics Lab we also have an immersive Virtual Lab where users build and program a more traditional "Top-Down" robot. We have integrated the two virtual robotics lab ("top-down" and "bottom-up") into a comprehensive curriculum introduction to robotics, focusing on the exciting application of robotics in the field of medicine.

  • Introduction to Robotics (w/ Virtual Labs & Medical Robots)
    David L. Anderson: Author
    Jeremy Gottlieb: Author

    The Mind Project has developed three virtual robotics activities (1 top-down, 2 bottom-up) and embedded them into a general introduction to robotics that focuses on the use of robots in medicine -- including medical research, surgery, hospital navigation and more. Explore this exciting new curriculum.

  • Virtual "Top-Down" Robotics Lab

    This is our stand-alone virtual robotics lab. Build a mobile robot, write scripts to control the wheels and robotic arms, program that AI engine (a "virtual agent") to care about recycling -- and then put all the pieces together so that the robot recycles an empty Coke bottle.

Vassar College IRRL Website

Professor Ken Livingston, Vassar College, and Joshua de Leeuw (alumnus of Vassar College) created this Virtual Behavior-Based Robotics Lab. Learn more about Vassar's undergraduate robotics program on the IRRL (Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory) website