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A Multidisciplinary Model For Using Robotics In Engineering Education

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.59.1 - 6.59.9



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Paper Authors

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Xudong Yu

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William White

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Scott Smith

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Keqin Gu

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Jerry Weinberg

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Cem Karacal

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George L. Engel

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

Session 2620

A Multidisciplinary Model for Using Robotics in Engineering Education Jerry B. Weinberg, George L. Engel, Keqin Gu, Cem S. Karacal, Scott R. Smith, William W. White, and Xudong W. Yu Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville


The use of robotics to provide hands-on instruction across the various disciplines of engineering and computer science is no longer the prohibitively expensive proposition it once was. With the emergence of inexpensive robot kits that encompass a background in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, and computer science, robotics can now play a central role in the education of students in these disciplines. A critical obstacle to this goal, however, is the lack of familiarity that students in each discipline have for the other fields of study, making a thorough understanding of overall robotics design principles quite difficult. This paper presents a model for multidisciplinary cooperation that alleviates this problem and elevates robotics to a potentially pivotal position in engineering education.

I. Introduction

Robotics provides a comprehensive view of an integrated, fully engineered system. It affords a view of information processing from the microprocessor level up through the application software, and it illustrates the connection between mechanical, electrical, and computing components. Because of its multidisciplinary nature, the study of robotics in the classroom can be a valuable tool for the practical, hands-on application of concepts across various engineering and science topics.1 Furthermore, the curriculum in any specific area of study tends to narrowly focus students on that area, whereas real-world complex systems tend to integrate electrical, mechanical, and computing components. The study of robotics provides a medium for students to experience this integration and to see the interaction between the various types of systems.

Its multidisciplinary nature has also relegated the study of robotics to larger research universities and private industrial research groups whose members have had the full range of prerequisite knowledge to engineer such complex systems. Pre-constructed industrial robots could be purchased, but their exorbitant prices made them cost prohibitive to the more modest budgets of smaller educational institutions. With the emergence of inexpensive computational components, robot platforms have become more accessible to such smaller programs.

More importantly, these platforms have made the area of robotics accessible by removing the need to have a background in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science simultaneously. Platforms such as the Handyboard and the LEGO RCX2 have managed to allow users to cross the threshold of indignation, which is “the maximal behavioral component that we are willing to make to get a task done.”3 If end users perceive that their efforts must go beyond this point, a new tool will not succeed in the consumer market, no matter how good or

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Yu, X., & White, W., & Smith, S., & Gu, K., & Weinberg, J., & Karacal, C., & Engel, G. L. (2001, June), A Multidisciplinary Model For Using Robotics In Engineering Education Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9577

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