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Bugbots! A Multidisciplinary Design Project For Engineering Students

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Use of Labs to Introduce Students to Engr.

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.270.1 - 7.270.7



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Paper Authors

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Fan Lau

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Kathryn Hollar

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Eric Constans

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Kauser Jahan

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Bernard Pietrucha

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Paris von Lockette

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Linda Head

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Session 2426

Bugbots! A Multidisciplinary Design Project for Engineering Students

Kathryn Hollar1, Fan Lau2 Linda Head1, Kauser Jahan1, Eric Constans1, Paris von Lockette1, and Bernard Pietrucha1 1 College of Engineering, Rowan University 2 Cornell University


Rowan University’s College of Engineering stresses the importance of a well-rounded undergraduate engineering curriculum, incorporating relevant aspects of all engineering fields as well as promoting teamwork through multidisciplinary group projects. This paper describes a semester-long sophomore-level multidisciplinary engineering design course in which student teams design and create a microbial fuel cell (MFC) that powers a Lego® Mindstorms robot. The project combines mechanical, chemical, civil & environmental, and electrical & computer engineering skills. Students determine how changing certain fuel cell parameters and conditions affect voltage and current, then construct a Lego® Mindstorms robot that will derive its energy from a MFC stack. The project reinforces many concepts from courses early in the curriculum, such as chemistry, biology, and physics. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of the project, contribution and cooperation from all students are important factors in the success of their designs. This paper discusses the course structure, experimental and design aspects of the project, and student response to the project.


In 1992, Henry M. Rowan donated $100,000,000 to the then Glassboro State College to establish a unique engineering program in southern New Jersey. What is now Rowan University boasts an innovative College of Engineering comprised of four programs: Chemical, Civil and Environmental, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical. The College graduated its first class in May 2000 and serves 15 to 35 students per year in each of its four programs for a total of 60 to 125 students per year.

The hallmark of the Rowan engineering program is an emphasis on technical communication and integrated, hands-on design and experimentation, which is realized in the multidisciplinary, project-oriented Engineering Clinic sequence. To better prepare students for entry into a rapidly changing and highly competitive marketplace, engineering design and practice as well as communication and teamwork skills are introduced early in the curriculum. Beginning in the freshman year, all students enroll in Clinics and work with students and faculty from all engineering disciplines on laboratory experiments, real-world design projects, and research projects of increasing complexity. The importance of effective written and oral communication skills, teamwork skills, and technical proficiency is reinforced in the Clinic sequence1. In

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Lau, F., & Hollar, K., & Constans, E., & Jahan, K., & Pietrucha, B., & von Lockette, P., & Head, L. (2002, June), Bugbots! A Multidisciplinary Design Project For Engineering Students Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10872

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