• Code CECS6001
  • Unit Value 6 to 12 units
  • Offered by School of Cybernetics
  • ANU College ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject CECS Experimental, Interdisciplinary
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Katherine Daniell
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2021
    See Future Offerings

This course has not been adjusted for remote participation in Semester 1 2021. Students must attend on-campus activities to complete the course.

In this course we will start to create practitioners of the new branch of engineering who can carefully examine new and emerging technological systems, the building blocks they are made from, and the questions they raise for human society and our ecosystems.

Through the course, we will challenge students to take different approaches to studying and understanding cyber-physical systems (CPS): systems with human, technological, and environmental components. These approaches do not start with identifying and solving problems, but instead start with framing questions about these systems, their building blocks and the dynamic relationships between their human, technological, and environmental components. Students will learn to engage with important terminology and detail, integrate multiple perspectives, question assumptions, and think critically and creatively in order to start with framing questions about emerging cyber-physical systems and the future we want to collectively create with them.

This course gives students exposure to conceptual approaches of the new branch of engineering. It draws on cybernetics, systems and control theory, design thinking and practice, scientific method, social science, humanities, and critical theory. It serves as a foundation for applying the new branch of engineering’s approach to cyber-physical systems analysis in Semester 2.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Demonstrate conceptual understanding of cyber-physical systems and key building blocks (including infrastructure, resources, data, algorithms, machine learning, artificial intelligence and networks), and carefully frame creative, critical and constructive questions about them.
  2. Understand the new branch of engineering’s approach to cybernetics and cyber-physical systems analysis (to be applied in Semester 2).
  3. Analyse and evaluate systems in ways which demonstrate an appreciation of principles of sustainability, responsibility and safety, and respect for formal methodologies, structures, and legislative requirements which shape engineering practice.
  4. Fluently apply a range of techniques, tools and resources to framing questions in a creative and innovative manner about complex cyber-physical systems and communicate these to others.
  5. Practice a collaborative design approach in course projects, including sharing draft materials early, eliciting feedback from people with different types of expertise, offering constructive feedback to others, and incorporating feedback through iteration.
  6. Create innovative cyber-physical system critiques, analyses and explorations by applying appropriate tools and resources to design new products and satisfy user requirements.
  7. Demonstrate ethical, respectful, and professional conduct, and contribute positively to the Institute community.
  8. Cultivate self-reflexivity, questioning own assumptions, and a willingness to change perspective when presented with new evidence or ideas.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Tutorial exercise (Engaging with concepts and resources) (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]
  2. Completing practice tasks (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]
  3. Individual portfolio (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The quantum of work through the semester will be approximately 130 hours per 6 units of course. This will include a mixture of classes, workshops, site visits and seminars, as well as group work, independent reading, viewing, and study. Students will also also participate in whole-of-Institute activities.

Inherent Requirements

Information on inherent requirements for this course are currently not available.

Requisite and Incompatibility

This course is only available to selected students. Students will need to contact CECS Student Services to request a permission code to enrol. Selection is made through a competitive and transparent process, documented in the application pack available at https://3ainstitute.cecs.anu.edu.au/

You will need to contact the School of Cybernetics to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

During the semester we’ll introduce a selection of resources for debate, discussion, critique and inspiration. Resource lists will align with the six fortnightly themes of the program. Students are expected to engage with all the resources assigned; this will be included in weekly tutorial grading.

Resource lists for this course will include a wide variety of materials, including books, articles, films, art and podcasts. We try to ensure as much as possible that our resource lists reflect a diverse set of voices and perspectives: diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, time, cultural context and resource format. Where possible, we go back to original sources, being mindful of context, and that there were often multiple people behind a single author’s work.

Resource lists aren’t complete or definitive guides to a topic. At any given time, the resource list represents a snapshot of the influences and discussions shaping the 3A Institute. We encourage students to identify and share additional resources, including through the fortnightly team read session.

Here is an indicative selection from across the course.

  • Diana Forsythe (1993) Engineering knowledge: the construction of knowledge in artificial intelligence. Social Studies of Science 23: 445. Paper.
  • Klaus Schwab (2016) The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond. Published on the World Economic Forum website. Blog.
  • Elyssebeth Leigh & Kat Cutay (2017) Aboriginal Engineering: Technologies for an enduring civilisation. Expansion of processes developed by OLT Projects, Engineering Across Cultures and Indigenous Online Cultural Teaching and Sharing. Booklet.
  • Kate Crawford & Vladan Joler (2018) Anatomy of an AI system. Artwork.
  • Brendan Traw & David Aucsmith (1999) Content protection for transmission systems. US Patent 5,949,877. Patent.
  • Seymour Papert (1966) The summer vision project. MIT Artificial Intelligence Group. Memo.
  • 99% Invisible (2019) Episode 361: Built on sand. Podcast.

Assumed Knowledge

The assumed knowledge and requirements to take this course will be documented in the application pack available at https://3ainstitute.cecs.anu.edu.au/


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 to 12 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
7.00 0.14583
8.00 0.16667
9.00 0.18750
10.00 0.20833
11.00 0.22917
12.00 0.25000
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $368 per unit
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $490 per unit
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4577 22 Feb 2021 01 Mar 2021 31 Mar 2021 28 May 2021 In Person View

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