June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Design in Engineering Education
15.145.1 - 15.145.13
An Autonomous Campus Tour Guide Robot as a Platform for Collaborative Engineering Design
The University of South Alabama School of Computer and Information Sciences and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are participating in a collaborative effort, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), to design and build an autonomous robotic campus tour guide. The life-size tour guide robot, called JagBot after the University of South Alabama jaguar mascot, is capable of verbal and physical interaction with prospective students and visitors. The robot can answer questions, describe campus landmarks, and can autonomously navigate from location to location on campus using a variety of on-board sensors. The NSF funding for JagBot was leveraged with University undergraduate research funding to provide a wide variety of opportunities for student research. During a two-year period, interdisciplinary research involving the School of Computer and Information Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering resulted in opportunities for undergraduate research, senior capstone design projects, graduate research, three master’s theses and invaluable community exposure for STEM education. In addition to research opportunities, the work with JagBot resulted in the development of a 400-level senior elective engineering class in LabView and provided justification for University funding of a laboratory based on National Instruments data acquisition systems. This paper describes the design process and the contribution of the students to the final JagBot design.
Robots, as much as any other advance in science, epitomize progress. Robots have starred in motion pictures, are routinely used in industry, and, although they have not become integrated into society as fast as imagined by science fiction writers, they have been making inroads into society in roles such as mowing yards, cleaning houses, assisting the military and providing companionship to the elderly1-9. In addition, robots are an excellent way to introduce students at all levels of engineering and computer science education to sophisticated design and research issues.
The University of South Alabama (USA) was fortunate to obtain an NSF grant to develop, build and test an autonomous tour guide robot, named the JagBot, after the university jaguar mascot. In addition to providing funding for a wide variety of research, the NSF is a staunch advocate of quality education in American universities. It is increasingly evident in NSF proposal requirements that the education and preparation of students for careers in the sciences is an integral part of research that is equally as important as the proposed research topic. In recent years, the NSF has placed more emphasis on undergraduate research opportunities, partially in response to criticism of American universities and the performance of American undergraduates in the arena of world education. The JagBot project provided an excellent opportunity to expose undergraduate students to state-of-the-art research problems.
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