Robotics Major Advising Information

I AM NO LONGER the Graduate Academic Advisor for the ECE:Robotics major, and this content remains on my site for reference only.

General Information

ECE Plan of Study Forms. You must have a valid plan of study form submitted to the Master’s Program Coordinator in order to graduate. It is highly recommended that you prepare a Study Plan your first semester and have it signed by the Graduate Academic Advisor for your major no later than the end of the third week of your first semester at Michigan. After that initial submission, you should revise it as needed. You can revise your study plan as many times as you like.

Important Note when you fill your plan of study forms, there will be a list of checkboxes on the right. These control how each course is counted in terms of your degree requirements. If you do not check any boxes the course is NOT COUNTED AT ALL. Please make sure to explain any uncounted courses in your plan of study in your comments; otherwise I will return the plan to you to fix this. The graduate course list shows which classes are pre-approved Robotics Courses; they are marked with RO. Note that ROB 501 and ROB 550 count as EECS Credits. It is almost always the case that I will approve EECS 568, ROB 501 or ROB 550 as part of a robotics major.

Other Robotics courses

You can find additional robotics courses here and here. In principle, you need approval to count them in your major. What we will check is that your set of courses makes sense. In ECE:Robotics, you follow the rules in ECE. By doing so, you have a bit more freedom in your course selection than the students in COE:Robotics.


If your C-programming skills are “weak”, you may want to take ROB 502 Programming for Robotics. To enroll in the course, email with a CC to the ECE:Robotics Graduate Advisor explaining that you are an ECE:Robotics major. If you do not CC ECE:Robotics and/or do not explain that you are in ECE:Robotics, then you are unlikely to be admitted.

Pass-Fail Credits

Some of you are confused about the “optional” S/U (Pass-Fail) credits. Most students take zero or one of them. You can count a maximum of 6 S/U credits toward your MS degee.


Cognates are complicated. If a course is listed in another department, you can count it as a cognate. If an EECS course is cross-listed with another department, then you can still count it as a cognate. You cannot count a course as both a cognate and a major course; you have to choose between one or the other. Many Robotics courses qualify as cognates. The attribution of a course as a “major” course or a “cognate” course is a purely internal accounting detail. It does not show up on your transcript. Hence, if you reach your required number of major credits without it, do not hesitate to move something like ROB 530 into the cognate category. That being said, cognates are there for you to expand your horizons outside just robotics classes; it is highly recommended that you find cognates that enrich your knowledge outside your speciality. The RO column of the graduate course list lists courses as E or M if they are robotics related.

Linear Algebra and other Math classes

Almost everything in Robotics relies heavily on Linear Algebra and Multivariate Calculus. While this is not required, taking a proof based Linear Algebra class will make your life much much easier down the line. If you already learned Linear Algebra but your skills are rusty, or if you want a taste of what you will need to learn, can brush them up using our online ROB 101 Computational Linear Algebra class. Do not let the “100” nature of the course dissuade you. It is a serious Linear Algebra course for freshmen at UofM!

Other Class Lists

EECS Courses and All Courses in COE

Other Important Topics

First-semester MS Robotics

In the Fall semester, it is strongly advised that you take ROB 501. Other courses are harder to specify because they depend on your personal interests within Robotics. You might select from Computer Vision (EECS 442, EECS 504), Control Systems (EECS 461, EECS 560), Dynamics (ME 540), Machine Learning (EECS 545, EECS 505), Programming (ROB 502), a CS-view of Robotics (ROB 511), or Mechatronics (ME 552). You can try to get into ROB 550, but in the Fall term that will be hard, however, some students do get in and you should keep it in mind for the Winter term when it is widely available to students outside of the Robotics Program / Department.

For anyone majoring in Robotics, cognate credits happen easily. Do not take a course for the sole reason of earning cognate credits. If the course counts as a cognate and you are really interested in the course, then, by all means, go for it.

Whatever you do, do not take more than three (3) courses in your first term. Your UG courses were incomparably easier than MS-level courses at Michigan. Please, please, please keep this in mind. If you take four courses and get in trouble, the Grad Office and I will still help you, but, it will not be pretty! Use your first term to adjust to the new environment and give yourself a chance to be successful. Building up your confidence is an excellent goal for the first semester!


If you are here on a student visa and want to work, you need to know about OPT and CPT. All of the instructions are here.

Before you meet with me, you must first set up a meeting with the appropriate ECE Graduate Coordinator, for MS students and Ms. Kristen Thornton ( for PhD students. You will find them in the ECE Advising Office and they will check the correct boxes on the form and let me know it is ready to be signed. If you attempt to complete the form on your own, you will get both you and me in trouble. These are legal documents and must be treated with care. After you have met with an ECE Grad Coorindator, I am very happy to sign your form. CPT and OPT are very important and we want you to find great jobs that add to your experience at Michgan.

Reduced Course Load

Step 1 is to get your course form signed by me. An e-signature is fine. Step 2, you need to contact the ECE Graduate Coordinator, for MS students and Ms. Kristen Thornton ( for PhD students. There is a special letter that they will prepare for you. I am unable to write that letter. Done! That’s it. By the way, this is applicable when you are in your last term and need less than 8 credits to complete your degree.

Changing Majors to Robotics

Set up a (virtual) meeting with me. I will require you to take a course where you actually touch a robot, such as ROB 550, EECS 464, or, sometimes, ME 552. I will require a solid course plan in robotics. You do not need to tell me why you are changing majors. All I care about is that you complete a strong set of courses and do reasonably well in them.

Some Free Advice

Take at MOST three courses your first term

The grad courses take much more time than your undergrad courses. Give youself a chance to adjust to the system here and be successful. ROB 550 is a very intense course; it takes about 30 hours per week. It is hard to get in ROB 550 in the fall term because most of the slots are reserved for students in the CoE Robotics Program. The course is also offered in the Winter term and is open to everyone then. You can still try for Fall term; some do get in!

Researchers never regret a stronger foundation

If you are thinking about going into research, consider this: there are a lot of “fun” classes that teach skills, but nothing can replace a solid understanding of the foundations of a field. If you are so inclined, take math, physics, or statistics classes rather than robotics or engineering classes on the same subjects. They will be MUCH harder, but you will be much better positioned to understand advanced material. You will also have the advantage of being able to read primary literature and apply cutting edge methods years ahead of your peers.

Try out a Directed Study or MDP Team

Michigan offers many opportunities to do projects. Directed Study credits and the MDP program among them. Nothing will teach you practical skills faster and better than actually doing a meaningful chunk of work. Do not wait until you are sure you know something useful - there are positions available for all levels of skill.

Almost Anything is Possible – When in Doubt, Ask!

Universities have a lot of rules. In my experience, these rules are there to make sure that problems can be resolved in fair way when students are having trouble. They are good rules; following them will improve the average students’ chance of success. However, if you have the passion and demonstrated ability to do more challenging work, and the rules are in the way - petition for an exception. Faculty are usually happy to make exceptions for exceptionally talented students.

Some Specific Course Advice

Many students majoring in Robotics will also want to take computer vision or machine learning courses. Others will want some feedback control. These are fine selections. The Mechatronics course, ME 552, is pre-approved to count for EECS credit. I would not advise you to take both ROB 550 and ME 552, though you are allowed to do that, but for sure, do NOT take them the same semester; the combination would be far too time consuming. If you plan to take control courses as part of your robotics degree, it is important to note that EECS 560 is required for EECS 565 and strongly recommended for EECS 562.

How do you know if your selection of courses constitutes a valid MS Major in Robotics?

Simple – email me or send me your Study Plan. Please use the online ECE MS Plan of Study Form; fill it out as completely as you can. If you are unsure about which courses to take in later terms or if you make a few mistakes, do not worry, you can revise your plan at any time!

Who is doing robotics research at UofM?

A good place to look is the Robotics faculty list.

Important Advising Warning

We are seeing students who are claiming to be Robotics majors, when they are really trying to do a major in computer science. Do not try this. If you are NOT making progress towards your robotics degree with a solid list of robotics courses, I will NOT sign your Study Plan. And without my signature, you cannot graduate. For those of you who are really doing a Robotics Major, you will find us to be very accommodating on your plan of study. If we can look at your plan of study and deduce your major from your course selections, you will be fine. This menancing message is present only because we have a few students who really are trying to game the system. Most of you are fantastic and I look forward to working with you to build an exciting, individualized study plan in robotics!