University of Minnesota
CSCI 5980/8980: Physics-Based Animation



This course is intended to prepare students for understanding and advancing research in physics-based animation. At the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • identify appropriate computational models for animating various physical phenomena,
  • present technical papers and discuss their key contributions and limitations, and
  • implement and demonstrate state-of-the-art simulation techniques.


Familiarity with linear algebra and multivariable calculus is essential. You should either have taken a course in numerical linear algebra, or simultaneously be enrolled in CSCI 2033 or 5304. Experience with computer graphics (CSCI 4611 or 5607) is recommended but not strictly required.


The course will consist of a combination of lectures by the instructor and seminar-style sessions where students present and discuss recent papers. At the end of the course, students will develop and present a final project implementing one or more of the algorithms described in the class, and possibly novel techniques of their own.


There is no textbook for the course. Selected articles and course notes will be made available as the course goes on.

The following resources available online are likely to be useful:


You will be evaluated on your in-class participation, the paper presentations, and the final project. There is no final exam. The grade breakdown is as follows:

  • In-class participation (20%):
    • Quizzes on assigned reading (5%)
    • Written critique on presentations (10%)
    • Participation in class discussions (5%)
  • Paper presentations (30%)
  • Final project (50%):
    • Written proposal (10%)
    • Presentation (with videos) or report and demonstration video (20%)
    • Code (20%)

See the links for more details.

Extra credit: No extra credit opportunities will be provided in this course.

Late policy: Late submission is only permitted for the final project. You have three free late days that you can use in total between the proposal, the report, and the code submission. After that, each late day costs you 25% of your total grade for the final project. If you are doing a final presentation instead of a report, you may not present it late.

Expectations for 5980 vs. 8980: Students taking the course as 8980 are expected to demonstrate a greater level of intellectual maturity and mastery of the course materials. Concretely, this means the following:

  • Paper presentations must relate the paper to its broader context: describe the state of the art at the time and the significance of the presented paper’s contributions, relate its key ideas to fundamental concepts and problems discussed in the course, and discuss how its limitations and tradeoffs affect potential applications.

  • Final projects should include a novel component that does not follow an existing paper. This could be a application of an existing technique to a new problem (or a different one than it was proposed for), or a new approach to an existing problem. This does not necessarily have to be the main part of the project, but it should be present and will form part of the grade.


The following standard University of Minnesota policies apply to this course:

You are encouraged to talk to each other and discuss the coursework. As a part of academic honesty, any significant help received in the final project must be acknowledged in the final report or presentation.