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A Freshman Programming Course For Mechanical Engineers Using Mechatronics Applications

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 1: Controls

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.41.1 - 9.41.10

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Paper Authors

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William Carnell

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John Lumkes

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Joseph Musto

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1166

A Freshmen Programming Course for Mechanical Engineers Using Mechatronics Applications

Joseph C. Musto, John H. Lumkes Jr., and William Carnell1 Mechanical Engineering Department Milwaukee School of Engineering


A new freshmen-level course has been developed to teach programming applications to Mechanical Engineering students at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). Rather than focusing on typical introductory programming applications (like sorting, numerical methods, etc.), the course is focused on the development of algorithms that include electromechanical hardware in the loop. While the objectives of the course are similar to those of a traditional programming course (flowcharting, algorithm development, loops, logical structures, and data arrays), the use of mechatronics applications provides two advantages over traditional programming courses: • Students are provided with immediate, concrete, visual feedback on their algorithms and programming implementations. • Student interest in multidisciplinary problems, and the importance of programming to Mechanical Engineering students, are implicitly developed in the course. The approach is loosely based on a similar course developed at Northeastern University by McKnight, et. al. [1]. The course has been developed using Matlab as the primary programming platform. A low-cost USB interface device is used to connect mechatronic hardware to student laptop computers. Experiments including LEDs, temperature sensors, distance transducers, light sensors, solar cells, DC motors, and stepper motors, as well positioning tables and servo-controlled robots, have been developed. The course culminates in a creative design project, in which teams of students combine the various types of hardware used in the laboratory into a new application of their choosing. Based on both student and instructor feedback, the initial implementation of the course has been overwhelmingly positive.

I. Introduction

In the fall of 1999, Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) introduced a Technology Package Program for all incoming students. As part of the initiative, each new student is provided with a notebook computer and a standard suite of software. In conjunction with this program, a revised Mechanical Engineering curriculum was launched, designed to exploit the availability of

1 W. Carnell is currently with the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Connecticut

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Carnell, W., & Lumkes, J., & Musto, J. (2004, June), A Freshman Programming Course For Mechanical Engineers Using Mechatronics Applications Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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