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"Choo Choos", Robots And Computer Based Instrumentation For 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

Mobile Robotics in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1.1 - 7.1.6



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Paper Authors

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Carl Steidley

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Stephen Dannelly

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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Session 2620

“Choo Choos”, Robots and Computer-Based Instrumentation for Students 1

R. Stephen Dannelly, Carl W. Steidley Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi


This paper describes a versatile and innovative active learning laboratory currently under development that will be used to teach a wide variety of computer science and mathematics subjects. The laboratory, equipped with a model railroad system, autonomous mobile robots and a network of control computers, offers students hands-on experiences with hardware interfacing, data acquisition, real-time programming, client/server programming, and observing actual physical results of numerically computed solutions to problems. The goal of this work is to produce students with experience in designing solutions to challenging problems that have many dimensions and also the ability to effectively implement and test those solutions. This laboratory will enable us to transform a wide range of computer science algorithms and abstract concepts into physical realities. This paper briefly describes the laboratory hardware and overviews an incrementally complex series of assignments supported by the laboratory.


Our Computer Science program has an enrollment of approximately 250 undergraduates. Although the undergraduate program produces graduates who are able to attend graduate school, many choose to join industry. Our graduates are highly proficient at developing software to solve real problems. The approach we use to achieve this is to emphasize the design and writing of software in a range of areas.

Computer Science 4348 - Systems Programming is a three hour senior level course which addresses the design and implementation of system software such as application support libraries and interprocess communication facilities. This course has a particularly strong emphasis on software writing and addresses low-level software development. Prior to funding for this project, students enrolled in this course developed software using a network of DEC workstations. Assignments included logging user activity over a network, simple interprocess communication between Unix machines, use of semaphores to control shared resources, and an extensive client-server development project.

We believe the effectiveness of this type of course can be greatly improved by placing it in a setting where students can actively extend the concepts being taught into tangible realities 1, 2 . Therefore, we have begun building a new laboratory equipped with a model railroad system

1 This work was sponsored in part by a National Science Foundation Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement – Adaptation and Implementation grant, grant number DUE-9950839.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ã 2002, American Society for Engineering Education Main Menu

Steidley, C., & Dannelly, S. (2002, June), "Choo Choos", Robots And Computer Based Instrumentation For Students Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10973

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