Keith J. O'Hara


CMSC 119

(De-)Coding the Drone

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This course introduces students to computing through the coding and decoding of drones — or, more generally, robotic computing systems — and engages with the public debate on unmanned aerial vehicles, both military and domestic. This class will serve as a hands-on introduction to the practice of programming drones, small embedded computers connected with sensors and actuators. Through guest lectures by distinguished practitioners in fields such as human rights, international law, media studies, literature, robotics, and history, as well as vigorous class discussion, we will consider drones from aesthetic, social, moral, and policy perspectives. Students will learn how computers can observe and manipulate the physical world as well as calculate in the virtual world, while reflecting on the social and political implications of drone technology. No prior knowledge of computer programming is required. Prerequisite: passing score on part 1 of the Mathematics Diagnostics.