June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.291.1 - 14.291.15
Bridging Theory and Practice in a Senior Level Robotics Course for Mechanical and Electrical Engineers
Abstract As a diverse discipline, robotics is a synthesis of a variety of subjects such as kinematics, dynamics, controls, mechatronics, mechanical design, artificial intelligence etc. The crossover of multiple areas makes the instruction of robotics courses a challenging task. Traditional robotics courses in mechanical and electrical engineering mainly focus on the analysis and modeling of classical robotic systems such as a two-to-six degrees of freedom robotic manipulator arm or a simple wheeled mobile robot. However, as more and more new branches of robotics are emerging in recent years (nanorobotics, biology-inspired robots and so on), it has become clear that materials covered in traditional robotics courses are not sufficient for students to solve new problems or create new robotic systems. It is therefore imperative that robotics courses be updated, and in many cases, redesigned to account for new branches of robotics that call on students to be competent in the theoretical underpinnings and also have the skills and confidence to apply these to real applications demanded by current practice. This paper first introduces the importance of robotics courses in the curricula of engineering programs, followed by results of a survey that reports on the features of robotics courses in several universities in the United States. The difficulties of designing a robotics course are then addressed. Finally, a suggested structure of a senior level robotics course is proposed.
Introduction In the year of 2005, the Robotics Education Workshop took place in Robotics Systems and Science symposium at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)1. The main goal of this workshop was to discuss how to turn robotics into a core course that could be taught in every accredited Mechanical Engineering (ME), Electrical Engineering (EE), Computer Science (CS) undergraduate and graduate program in the United States, indeed, all over the world. Over 30 robotics professors from universities and institutes in the US, Europe, and Asia participated in this discussion and they all believed that it was a good time to start considering in which ways robotics could be taught broadly and then, determine and implement corresponding actions. The opinions of these professors were mostly due to the computing revolution and recent advances in actuators and sensors, which make it possible that today’s personal computers (PCs) could become tomorrow’s personal robots (PRs). Actually, the importance of robot-related projects in engineering curricula had already been well recognized by educationists2, especially as a tool in the early stage of engineering programs to foster students’ motivation and provide engineering design-oriented experience.
Currently, complete robotics curricula are only available at a few US universities or institutes with expertise in robotics research, such as University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and so on. At UPenn or CMU, by taking robotics and robotics-related courses, graduate students can fulfill the requirements on course hours towards their doctoral degrees3,4. Most recently, UPenn announced a master’s degree in robotics5. However, in other institutions, robotics courses and robotics curricula are still difficult to design because of the imbalance between ME, EE and CS topics, the lack of low cost teaching platforms and labs, etc..
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015