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ECSE-2500 Engineering Probability, RPI, Spring 2011 Home Page



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W. Randolph Franklin. BSc (Toronto), AM, PhD (Harvard)

I've been at RPI since 1978, apart from several absences, including a year at Berkeley, 3 months at Genoa (Italy), and shorter times at Laval University in Quebec City, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra, and the National University of Singapore. I also spent 2 years 7 months as Director of the Numeric, Symbolic, and Geometric Computation Program at the National Science Foundation, recommending how to spend about $30M of your tax dollars (thanks!).

My research interests are cartography, computer graphics, and geometry. My most recent research on representing terrain elevation, and compressing it, and siting observers and planning paths on it, was largely supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA people are crazy. My main worry was that I'm not crazy enough for them. My current research project, funded by NSF, together with Profs Cutler and Zimmie, is modeling how levees erode as water overflows them and then testing that in a 200g centrifuge.

I also like to examine terrain on foot; in summer 2008 I walked 164km, including 11km up, from Chamonix to Zermatt, in 12 days. I spent July 2009 visiting universities in Brazil, with a few days kayaking down a tributary of the Amazon, sleeping in a hammock tied to trees, and hiking for hours through the jungle.

Office Jonsson Engineering Center (JEC) 6026
Phone +1 (518) 276-6077
Email wrf@ecse.rpi.edu
Web http://wrfranklin.org/
Office hours After each lecture, usually as long as anyone wants to talk, starting in the classroom, then continuing in my office. Also by appointment.
Informal meetings If you would like to lunch with me, either individually or in a group, just mention it. We can then talk about most anything that's legal.
Preferred commun- ication medium Email. Please write from an account showing your name, preferably an RPI account.

Teaching assistants

  1. Hang Zhang zhangh10atdomain.edu ]
  2. Sina Afshari afshasatdomain.edu
  3. Harish Raviprakash raviphatdomain.edu, grading only

Replace atdomain by @rpi.

Their specific duties will be assigned later.


  1. Time and location: Tues and Fri, 2-3:20pm, DCC (aka Darrin) 330.
  2. Attendance policy: Attendance is encouraged because some of the grade will depend on the iclickers used in the lectures.


  1. Spring 2011 will be largely identical to Spring 2010: Eng Prob Spring 2010
  2. I will largely follow the text, but may add examples involving current events etc.
  3. There will be programming exercises in Matlab and C/C++.

Course outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate knowledge about fundamental principles of probability.
  2. Students will be able to use the major discrete and continuous probability distributions.
  3. Students will be able to apply the basic principles to scientific problem solving.


Alberto Leon-Garcia, Probability and Random Processes for Electrical Engineering 3rd Edition, Addison-Wesley 2008, ISBN 978-0-13-147122-1.

  1. This is the same book as we've used for several years.
  2. This book is used at many other universities because it is good. Those courses' lecture notes are sometimes online, if you care to look.


The course calendar is on Google and embedded in the course home page.

It will include lectures, exams and due dates for homeworks.

Each entry will start with EP, to be recognizable if you merge several calendars together.



  1. in-class iclicker - 5%
  2. homeworks - 30%
  3. 2 in-class (midterm) exams, Tues Mar 1 and Tues Apr 5 - 2x20% = 40%
  4. final exam - 25%

Missing or Late Work

  1. We will drop the lowest homework grade. That will handle excused absences, unexcused absences, dying relatives, illnesses, team trips, and other problems.
  2. Late homeworks will not be accepted.
  3. If you miss an exam because of an excused absence, we will replace it with your final exam grade.
  4. If you miss the final exam because of an excused absence, we will either give you an individual oral makeup exam, or use your other exam grades.
  5. In case of force majeure, such as a campus lockdown, which occurred during last year's first midterm, an appropriate adjustment will be made.

Academic integrity

Student-teacher relationships are built on trust. For example, students must trust that teachers have made appropriate decisions about the structure and content of the courses they teach, and teachers must trust that the assignments that students turn in are their own. Acts, which violate this trust, undermine the educational process. The Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities defines various forms of Academic Dishonesty and you should make yourself familiar with these. In this class, all assignments that are turned in for a grade must represent the student's own work. In cases where help was received, or teamwork was allowed, a notation on the assignment should indicate your collaboration. Submission of any assignment that is in violation of this policy will result in a grade of 0 for the assignment and a report to the Dean of Students. If you have any question concerning this policy before submitting an assignment, please ask for clarification.

Interim assessment

We will periodically give you a copy of what we think your grades are to date. Please report any errors within a week. It is not allowable to wait until May and then go back through the semester looking for more points.

For the middle of the semester, we will give you an estimate of your total grade to date.

Scheduled review days

No assignments will be due during this period at the end of the semester. If there is a demand, we will schedule a review session.

Final exam

There will be a required final exam at a time set by the registrar. Do not make travel plans that conflict with the final exam.

Grade appeals

Try in order:

  1. Prof W. Randolph Franklin
  2. Prof Mike Wozny, ECSE Curriculum Chair
  3. Prof Kim Boyer, ECSE Head
  4. Dean of Students

Good argument: you gave a clearly correct answer that showed that you understood the question.

Bad argument: you need the points because ...

Special needs students

Students with an authorizing memo will be cheerfully given the appropriate accommodation.

Student feedback

Since it's my desire to give you the best possible course in a topic I enjoy teaching, I welcome feedback during (and after) the semester. You may tell or write me or a TA.