June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.67.1 - 14.67.11
A Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Project Implementing a Robotic Arm for the Artificial Insemination of Endangered Amphibian Species
This paper presents a pilot undergraduate project started in fall 2007 and completed in spring 2008 at Eastern Washington University. The goal of the project was to expose undergraduate electrical engineering students as early in the curriculum as possible to the challenges presented by real projects. The project had to be relatively long term, multidisciplinary, and it had to require both technical depth and breadth, problem solving skills, ethical responsibilities, communication skills, effective teamwork and planning skills. The basic idea was to engage students in an activity that would emulate as closely as possible the industrial environment they will be facing soon after graduation providing students with the opportunity to gain the skills and tools needed in the day-to-day practice of engineering. Toward this end, in collaboration with the biology department, a group of undergraduate electrical engineering students were challenged with the task of building a robotic arm for the artificial insemination of endangered amphibian species. The rationale was to maximize the fertilization success rate by using an artificial insemination process resembling the natural process as closely as possible. From the very beginning students were encouraged to work on the project independently and with as little supervision as possible. They were also asked to be in charge of all phases that characterize the design and development of a typical engineering system including system specification, project planning and management, feasibility analysis, system simulation and performance assessment, prototyping, verification and validation of the system functionality and its constraints requirements, system implementation and finally the documentation of the end product.
The paper is organized as follows. Section I provides a brief introduction, followed by the history of the project in Section II. Section III describes the various steps in the development of the project. Section IV outlines the technical and pedagogical contribution of the project. Finally, Section V concludes with a summary of the achievements and lessons learned during this process.
The objective of the project presented in this paper was to engage undergraduate students into a learning activity spanning over several quarters and courses’ knowledge. The underlying aim was to expose students to an experience that would resemble as closely as possible what they will likely face once they graduate. To this end we resolved the project should challenge students on the following areas: 1) teamwork and planning skills, 2) written and oral communication skills, 3) technical depth and breadth, 4) problem solving skills, and 5) multi-disciplinarity. However, when we tried to come out with a list a potential projects that would encompass all
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