Curriculum Modules - by Category

A.I., Robotics, & Computational Models

Foundational Issues


A.I., Robotics, & Computational Models

Chain Codes: An Introduction

Chain codes are a kind of computer program that can be used to represent the shape of objects. Seven hands-on activities show how to write simple chain codes and explain their application to computer vision.

Computers play a central role in artificial intelligence, robotics, and in modeling various capabilities of minds/brains. But what is a computer? Are all computers the same? This module answers these questions..

Connectionism: An Introduction

Neurons form elaborate information processing networks. Connectionist networks (or artificial neural nets) are special computer programs that simulate those networks. This module explains how connectionist networks work.

Larry Learner -- An AI Program

Larry Learner is an artificial intelligence program that plays the game "Last One Loses." There are two versions of Larry -- one version is programmed to win. Another version doesn't know how to win, at first, but it learns..

McCulloch and Pitts developed a mathematical model of a biological neuron. Learn about the original MCP neuron as well as further developments that would eventually lay the foundation for today's connectionist networks (artificial neural nets).

ProtoThinker: A Model of the Mind

ProtoThinker (or "PT") is an "artificial agent" -- a computer program that interprets what you say to it, believes and remembers what you tell it, and decides to do things only if those actions are consistent with PT's moral commitments.

Iris 1.2 Robotic Arm

The Iris 1.2 Robotic Arm runs on software written by The Mind Project robotics team. The module has detailed instructions for building and programming the arm and for using it in the classroom.

Introduction to Robotics

This is a comprehensive introduction to robotics that focuses on the use of robotics in medicine and that features three stand-alone virtual robotics labs.

Robots: Digital & Analog

The computer processing in virtually all robots is digital. What significant differences would there be in a robot that was controlled by an analog, water computer? Compare two robots which behave the same but one is digital, one is analog.

Virtual Robotics Lab (

You build a "top-down", write scripts to control its motors, and train its AI software so that it will perform interesting tasks. After creating the virtual robot, join the Mind Project Team and build a physical version of the same Iris.4 robot.

Virtual Robotics Lab (Behavior-Based or

With videos of actual robots, users are able to experiment with thousands of different programming combinations ("hierarchies") to solve a robotic-design challenge in behavior-based robotics.


Virtual Anthropology / Linguistics Lab

Students become field anthropologists and conduct a study on cultural differences in the use of color terms. Students learn current research methods and struggle with the long-standing dispute between universalists and relativists.

Foundational Issues

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A drawing of a robot and a robotic dog

Some computer scientists say that in the next 40 years we will be able to transfer our minds into a robot and live, virtually forever. In this monograph, Win Phillips examines the plausibility of this "extraordinary" claim. (Image by Nancy Stahl).

Functionalism: An Introduction

Functionalism asserts that minds and their mental states (pains, beliefs, etc.) are defined by their function (or software design) not their physical make-up (hardware). This means that machines as well as biological organisms could have minds..

Drawing of Man at a desk with a book

John Searle's Chinese Room Argument challenges one of the most popular theories of the mind. Many passionately defend the argument; many others viciously attack it. Come and try to figure out what all the fuss is about..

A picture of five numbered sentences and a conclusion, making up an argument.

An introduction to empirical knowledge, scientific reasoning, and the logic underlying the scientific method. How do we reason from the evidence of empirical data to the goal of scienitific knowledge?

A drawing of a man sitting in front of a computer reading text messages

Alan Turing proposed a fascinating test for "machine intelligence" in 1950 which remains at the center of controversy. Offered here is a flash animation showing one way the test might be conducted and the types of questions that might be asked..

A picture of the robot Data from Star Trek the Next Generation

"Is it possible to build a person?" Various criteria of personhood are considered and students are challenged to develop their own criteria and to judge whether or not those properties could be “mechanized” and built into a machine..


This is an online version of portions of the Steve Weisler & Slavko Milekic book Theory of Language originally published in CD-ROM and print form by MIT Press. Effective activities and many videos enhance this linguistics textbook..

Virtual Anthropology Lab

Students become field anthropologists and conduct a study on cultural differences in the use of color terms. Students learn current research methods and struggle with the long-standing dispute between universalists and relativists.


Neural Synchrony

Neural synchrony is the simultaneous / synchronous oscillations of membrane potentials in a network of neurons connected with electrical synapses (gap junctions). It is considered by some theorists to be the neural correlate of consciousness.

Introduction to Neurons, Synapses, Action Potentials, and Neurotransmission

An introduction to the structure and function of neurons, conduction of action potentials, synapses, and both chemical and electrical neurotransmission..

After receiving a detailed introduction to Parkinson's Disease, explore interactive animations that elucidate two competing theories that seek to explain mysterious features of the disease.

Picture of a rat on a table in a surgical apparatus

This is a virtual neuroscience lab where students perform an experiment studying the relationship between dopamine levels and cocaine seeking behavior in a virtual rat.

Picture of a rat on a table and a syringe help in front

Students in this immersive lab measure dopamine levels in rats with Parkinson's symptoms to compare competing theories which seek to solve the mystery of how the brain compensates for the death of dopamine neurons.

A Picture of the Inside of a Clinic

In this virtual experience students become a neuroradiologist who performs a coiling procedure on a patient suffering from a brain aneurysm. Students learn not only about strokes but the importance of technology in diagnostic medicine.

Perception / Vision

Computer Programs that Can See

There are both classical AI programs and neural networks that can process visual information about the world and give machines the ability to "see." This module explores different approaches to computer vision.

Mueller-Lyer Illusion

The Müller-Lyer Illusion is one of the most famous examples of the human visual system misinterpretting the world. Become a subject in an online Müller-Lyer experiment. Try to explain why this happens..

Perception: An Introduction

Human beings perceive the world through their senses. This module explores the difference between sensation and perception, the importance of perception, and how perception is studied in the cognitive and learning sciences.

The Science of Vision: An Introduction

This is a brief introduction to the scientific study of visual perception, featuring animations that generate visual phenomena requiring scientific analysis.