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Design of an Autonomous Pace Car for Athletic Training: A Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Experience

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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

Multidisiplinary Student Research Experiences

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.468.1 - 26.468.19



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Paper Authors


Martin Fevre Elizabethtown College

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Martin Fevre is an undergraduate student currently pursuing his B.S. in Engineering with a concentration in Mechanical Engineering at Elizabethtown College. During his first three years at Elizabethtown College, he has found that he is adept at building analytical models with software such as MATLAB, like he did in his Numerical Methods course. Beside his undergraduate research, Martin started a group project featuring a quadrotor helicopter that aims to map out the interior of a building to assist blind students. Martin's post-graduate research interests include aerospace, aeronautics, robotics, and automation.

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Tomas Estrada Elizabethtown College

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Dr. Tomas Estrada is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering and Physics at Elizabethtown College, in Elizabethtown, PA. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Universidad de Costa Rica in 2002 and his M.S. and Ph.D. (both in Electrical Engineering) from the University of Notre Dame in 2005 and 2009, respectively. His research interests include control systems, engineering education, technology-related entrepreneurship, and sustainable engineering applications.

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Design of an Autonomous Pace Car for Athletic Training: a Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research ExperienceOver the past three decades, major advances have been made relevant to automation, andtechnological expectations have increased in order to correct human error. Some of the mostgroundbreaking advances in automation can be found at the junction of mechanical engineering,electrical engineering, and computer science. These three disciplines, when applied together, areknown as mechatronics. For example, two important applications of mechatronics automationare the growing interest in autonomous cars[1] and the development of health care devices[2]. Inthe field of athletic training, however, there have been limited improvements[3], and theopportunities remain vast. The purpose of this paper is two-fold: first, to present an example ofmechatronics applied to athletic training, and, secondly, to share a unique undergraduatemultidisciplinary engineering research experience.The research team was multidisciplinary in nature since it was composed of an undergraduatestudent, midway through a mechanical engineering program in a small liberal arts college, and aprofessor in electrical engineering. The research project itself was multidisciplinary as well sinceit combined mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science into the designof a pace car intended to assist a runner during his athletic training. In terms of technical goals,the car needed to follow any type of line on indoor and outdoor tracks and perform differentworkouts, such as steady-state runs or interval training. To situate the line on the track, theresearch team used infrared reflective phototransistors to design sensing and control algorithms.An Arduino microcontroller was used to interact with the sensors, manage the electronics, andencode a PID controller[4].This research experience was a unique opportunity for the student during the summer before hisjunior year. In a small liberal arts college setting, the student had fewer resources available thanhe would have at a larger research university, but benefited from a very close interaction with hisadvisor. Furthermore, using the Informed Design Teaching and Learning Matrix[5] as aframework, an evaluation was performed before and after the experience to monitor theevolution of the student as a researcher. The student, who was used to traditional course-basedlearning, manifested remarkable ability to progress and learn in a research-based environment.After the conclusion of the research experience, the student showed growing interest incontinuing to perform mechatronics research at the graduate level.References[1] M. Horauer, Dr. B. Chen, and P. Zingaretti, “Mechatronic and Embedded Systems Pave the Way for Autonomous Driving,”, 2013, (accessed May 2014).[2] A.-M. Amancea, I. Doroftei, A. Barnea, F. Adăscăliţei, “Design and Implementation of a Mechatronic System for Lower Limb Medical Rehabilitation,” International Journal of Modern Manufacturing Technologies, vol. 4, no. 2, Dec. 2012.[3] E. Graether, and F. Mueller, “Joggobot, A Flying Robot as Jogging Companion,” in Proceedings of the CHI ’12 : CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Austin, TX, May 2012.[4] Y. Li, G. C. Y. Chong, and K. H. Ang, “PID Control System Analysis and Design,” IEEE Transactions on Control System Technology, vol. 13, no. 4, Jul. 2005.[5] D. P. Crismond, and R. S. Adams, “The Informed Design Teaching and Learning Matrix,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 101, no. 4, Oct. 2012.

Fevre, M., & Estrada, T. (2015, June), Design of an Autonomous Pace Car for Athletic Training: A Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Experience Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23806

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