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Collaborative Mobile Robot Design In An Introductory Programming Course For Engineers

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.145.1 - 3.145.4



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Paper Authors

author page

Robert L. Avanzato

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

Session 3520

Collaborative Mobile Robot Design in an Introductory Programming Course for Engineers

Robert Avanzato Penn State Abington College Abington, PA 19001

A project-centered introductory computer course for freshman and sophomore engineers has been developed at the Penn State Abington College. Students form teams to collaboratively design and implement algorithms in the C language for autonomous mobile robots. The team projects have been developed to “teach” critical programming concepts. These team projects have largely replaced the traditional lecture portion of the course. Collaborative software design for mobile robots provides direct, visual feedback of algorithms and has enhanced the learning process in the computer science course.

Introduction One of the challenges encountered in teaching an introductory computer science course for engineers is that the features of the language are revealed in a rather linear, sequential manner that results in programming exercises that are often perceived by students to be dry, or contrived. It is generally only near the conclusion of the course that students are in a position to creatively attack interesting and motivating problems and applications.. At the Penn State Abington College a section of CMPSC 201 is offered as a hands-on, collaborative, project-based course utilizing mobile robots. Students have found mobile robot programming to be highly motivating and compelling. Student teams are active in the algorithm and program design process from the start of the course, and the robot environment allows for the incorporation of interdisciplinary applications and experimentation. As this will be the only software course required for several of the engineering majors, it is an opportunity to introduce contemporary topics beyond numerical methods, such as process control, embedded control, robotics, and artificial intelligence CMPSC 201 is an introduction to computer programming course designed for engineering majors at the freshman and sophomore levels. The traditional course introduces students to the elements of the C/C++ programming language with an emphasis on engineering applications and numerical methods. Software packages such as a spreadsheet and MATLAB are also introduced. The innovative course comprises student teams with 3 to 4 students in each team. Team members were selected by the instructor based on data from a computer literacy survey. The range of prior computer experience was quite large, and an effort was made to combine experienced students and novices into a single team. The teams meet in a lab environment that provides ample work space and a PC with proper software and an Internet connection. Each team is provided with an identical robot platform with a variety of sensors. The group is responsible for the collaborative design of software to control the autonomous robot to perform various tasks. The course meets 2 sessions per week, and each session is 75 minutes in duration. Generally, one of the weekly meetings is dedicated to discussion of homework solutions, quizzes, tests, question and answer sessions, and short lectures. Lectures were provided on an as-needed basis, and handouts were prepared to supplement material in the required

Avanzato, R. L. (1998, June), Collaborative Mobile Robot Design In An Introductory Programming Course For Engineers Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--6966

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