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Designing And Implementing Hands On Labs For An Introductory Robotics Course:

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.203.1 - 5.203.12



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Paper Authors

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Rahul Bargava

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Michael Rosenblatt

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Howard M. Choset

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Amy Graveline

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

Session 2220

Designing and Implementing a Hands-On Labs for an Introductory Robotics Course: A Case Study in Directed Constructionism Michael Rosenblatt, Howie Choset, Amy Graveline and Rahul Bhargava Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 15213

1 Introduction In 1998, Carnegie Mellon introduced a new introductory robotics course titled General Robotics. It was lecture based, and weekly assignments were given in which students programmed simulations of particular robot tasks. The course included an optional project component where students (in teams) could define and carry out an independent project. About half the class undertook projects while the remaining students opted for the alternative of writing a series of reports. Of those who decided against the projects, many were afraid of being overwhelmed because of a lack of project experience prior to the course. Those who did undertake the projects gained valuable experience, but what they learned did not necessarily promote the curricular goal of the course. The main goal was to give a broad introduction to robotics in order to prepare for more advanced course work.

Before the semester had ended, we (Howie Choset, the instructor, and students in the course) had already begun asking ourselves a number of questions about the design of the course. How can we extend this hands-on component to all students who enroll in this course? How can we do it in a way that closely parallels the carefully chosen curriculum of the course? We attempted to answer these questions by setting out to design an improved version of the course. This new version of the course was offered in the Fall of 1999.

In the process of answering these questions we contrasted the instruction-based approach employed in the first offering of the course with the ideas of constructionism, a very hands-on individual approach to education. In doing so, we learned a lot about learning, and identified our biggest challenge: how do we meld the ideas of constructionism with the traditional institutional constraints of curriculum, class size, and limited resources. To answer this challenge, we assembled a guiding list of issues to be considered when applying constructionist ideas to existing curriculum. We call this approach directed constructionism, a hybrid of instructional and constructional education.

This paper is divided into three sections. The first section gives a brief description of the strengths and shortcomings of both instructional based education and the constructionist approach, and our ideas on how to fit the two approaches into one complimentary structure. The second section gives insight into the short history of the General Robotics course, and its place in the university’s Undergraduate Robotics Minor. It goes on to explain how we applied our ideas to the redesign of this course. The third section is an initial evaluation of this redesign, based primarily on feedback regarding its current implementation.

Bargava, R., & Rosenblatt, M., & Choset, H. M., & Graveline, A. (2000, June), Designing And Implementing Hands On Labs For An Introductory Robotics Course: Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8278

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