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An Educational Tool to Support Introductory Robotics Courses

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Digital Systems Education 2

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.180.1 - 26.180.19



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Paper Authors


Fernando Garcia Gonzalez Florida Gulf Coast University

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Dr. Fernando Gonzalez joined FGCU as an Assistant Professor in the Software Engineering Program in the fall of 2013. Previously he has worked at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas, the U.S. Department of Energy at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico and at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Gonzalez graduated from the University of Illinois in 1997 with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. He received his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Florida International University in 1992 and 1989. Dr. Gonzalez research interest includes the intelligent control of large scale autonomous systems, autonomous vehicles, discrete-event modeling and simulation and human signature verification.

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Janusz Zalewski Florida Gulf Coast University

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Janusz Zalewski, Ph.D., is a professor of computer science and software engineering at Florida Gulf Coast University. Prior to an academic appointment, he worked for various nuclear research institutions, including the Data Acquisition Group of Superconducting Super Collider and Computer Safety and Reliability Center at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He also worked on projects and consulted for a number of private companies, including Lockheed Martin, Harris, and Boeing. Zalewski served as a chairman of the International Federation for Information Processing Working Group 5.4 on Industrial Software Quality, and of an International Federation of Automatic Control Technical Committee on Safety of Computer Control Systems. His major research interests include safety related, real-time embedded and cyberphysical computer systems, and computing education.

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Gerardo Javier Pinzon P.E. Texas A&M International University

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An Educational Tool to Support Introductory Robotics Courses With the rising popularity of robotics in our modern world there is an increase in thenumber of engineering programs that do not have the resources to purchase expensivededicated robots but find a need to offer a basic course in robotics. This common introductoryrobotics course generally covers the fundamental theory of robotics including robotkinematics, dynamics, differential movements, trajectory planning and basic computer visionalgorithms commonly used in the field of robotics. The nature of this material almostnecessitates the use of robotic hardware to allow the students to practice implementing thetheory they learn in class. That is, to fully understand the material, it is necessary for thestudents to implement algorithms and observe the results, but this can be done not only onhardware. This paper introduces a software based educational tool designed to be used inintroductory robotics courses. The software simulates the geometry of motion (kinematics) ofany multilink industrial robotic arm and is to be used in place of an actual robotic arm. Inmuch the same way the student uses an actual arm, they can use this tool to implementsoftware to program the movement of the arm. An image of the arm appears in a window andmoves according to the instructions of the software the student produced. However this toolhas an advantage that few if any industrial arm will have. It can be used to program the arm atthe joint level. This allows the student to create algorithms based on the robot’s kinematicequations. This includes the use of inverse kinematic equations used to determine the jointinputs based on the desired location of the end-effector, as well as trajectory planning and thestudy of differential movements. In addition this tool allows the student to input thecharacteristics of the arm they wish to program allowing the student to program any type ofarm they wish. This tool provides a low cost solution to situations where purchasingexpensive robotic arms typically needed for this course is not possible, where the existingequipment does not allow for direct joint programming, or simply for on-line roboticscourses. This tool is different than the many robotic simulators available today in a couple of ways.First it is designed to be open. That is, while it can be programmed using its custom scriptinglanguage like other simulators it can also be programmed directly at the joint level. Whilereal robots are programmed using a scripting language, it does not lend itself to learningintroductory robotics since the logic in these preexisting software components is preciselywhat the student needs to learn how to create. Next it has a very short learning curve. Thetool is designed to allow a student with no prior experience using the tool to input theparticular arm of choice and start to move it within at most 20 minutes. The student simplyenters the Denavit-Hartenberg parameters of the arm and a three dimensional image of ageometrically correct arm appears. Overall, experiences with using the tool in a classroomenvironment indicate that students can effectively learn principles of robotics, which preparesthem for taking more advanced robotics courses or experiment with actual robotic devices.

Gonzalez, F. G., & Zalewski, J., & Pinzon, G. J. (2015, June), An Educational Tool to Support Introductory Robotics Courses Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23519

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