System Design Project Home Page


The System Design Project runs in semester 2 and is a group project involving construction of an item of significant complexity under conditions designed to give insights into industrial teamwork.

It is a 20 credit course with design, construction and assessment through the semester, ending in a demonstration day with industry visitors.

More detail can be found in these introductory slides from the lecture given in the Professional Issues course during semester 1, which includes provisional group assignments for 2019.

The Project

The task is to design and build an assistive robotic device, with an appropriate software interface.

You will have some flexibility to set your own goals for this task, but here is an example of what you could attempt: a person indicates an object on the floor with a laser pointer, and the robot picks it up and returns it to the person.

Note that we require some part of the system to be an actual robot: that is, a mechanical device able to move, and that acts in and on the world. However, the aim of the course is for you to build a whole system, of which the robot could be a relatively simple part. For example you may want to work more on building a good smart phone app to interact with the robot, or a database that allows it to make good decisions about what to do next, or an information processing system that takes the sensory information from the robot and learns about the situation. Or you might want to focus more on developing autonomous capabilities for the robot itself.

On the final day, your systems will be demonstrated to external judges, who will be asked to assess whether they would consider investing in your group and the technology you have developed.


The class is assigned to groups of around 8-9, each responsible for the development of a single robot. Assessment involves group marks for product (performance and documentation of the robot systems). Individual marks will then be adjusted for process (how each team member contributed), see details below.

Each group will have an assigned mentor, with whom they meet around once a week, and who offers advice and monitors progress, but - importantly - does not lead or manage the group. Advice on how the group should organise themselves for good project management will be provided. Problems within the group should first be brought to the attention of your mentor; if you have an issue with your mentor, you should bring this to the attention of the SDP TA (see below).

The assigment to groups and mentors will be announced towards the end of semester 1.


Assessment of the group will be based on the following elements (follow links for further details):

Individual scaling of the group mark will be applied to reflect significantly above or below average contributions, informed by the individual process reports and feedback from your fellow group members and mentor.

Timetable 2019

Unless otherwise indicated, the work of SDP, including client demonstrations, will take place in the dedicated SDP labs on the third floor of Appleton Tower. Other events associated with the course will take place in the locations indicated.

The timetable below is provisional but should be approximately correct. Note in particular that it is important that you are here from the first Monday of the semester.

Date Location Event
Monday January 14th (afternoon) 13:30 - 16:00 IF atrium and G.07 Opening session - week one guide
Tuesday January 15th AT level 3 Kit handout and introduction to the SDP space - timetable
Wednesday 16th January 10:00 AT level 3 Robot building workshop
Thursday 17th January 13:00 & 15:00 AT level 3 Software development workshop
Friday 18th January 14:00 IF G.07 Project pitches
Wednesday January 23rd 11:00 AT level 3 Project management workshop
Friday January 25th 16:00 deadline submit project plan
Wednesday January 30th TBC Quantitative Analysis

Wednesday February 6th

AT Level 3 First demonstration
Wednesday February 13th 11:00 TBC Commercialisation workshop
Wednesday February 27th AT Level 3 Second demonstration
Wednesday March 6th 11:00 TBC Usability workshop
Wednesday March 13th AT Level 3 Third demonstration
Friday March 22nd 16:00 deadline submit user guide
Wednesday March 27th 11:00 TBC Careers workshop
Wednesday April 3rd 9:00 -- 17:00 AT Level 3 Fourth demonstration
Friday April 5th 9:00 -- 17:30 IF G.07 and AT level 3 Final day event:
  • Judges, including industry guests, will attend and assess the projects from the point of view of potential investors. Last year's judges included representatives from Amazon, Sky, Accenture & Google.
  • All day Trade Fair in G.17 also open to Informatics staff and students
  • Demonstration and pitches to judges in AT3
  • Lunch provided in Atrium
  • Feedback and prizes!
Wednesday April 10th 16:00 deadline submit technical report
Friday April 12th 16:00 deadline submit individual report

Key information


The System Design Project team

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