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Feeling Is Believing: Using A Force Feedback Joystick To Teach Dynamic Systems

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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

5.298.1 - 5.298.15

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Paper Authors

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Mark Cutkosky

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Christopher Richard

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Allison Okamura

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

Session 3668

Feeling is Believing: Using a Force-Feedback Joystick to Teach Dynamic Systems Christopher Richard, Allison M. Okamura, Mark. R. Cutkosky Center for Design Research, Stanford University


As an innovative approach to teaching the laboratory component of an undergraduate course on dynamic systems, we present the haptic paddle: a low-cost, single-axis, force-feedback joystick. Using the paddle, students not only learned to model and analyze dynamic systems, but by using their sense of touch, they were able to feel the effects of phenomena such as viscous damping, stiffness, and inertia. Feeling the dynamics, in addition to learning the underlying physics, improved students’ understanding and added an element of fun to the course. In this paper, we describe the purpose and design of the haptic paddle, present examples of how the paddle was integrated into laboratory exercises, and show the results of student evaluations.

1. Introduction

Engineering educators are continually challenged to provide physical examples in order to make course material more interesting and accessible to students. Laboratory exercises, software simulations, and in-class demonstrations are all helpful in developing students’ ability to connect theoretical principles with physical reality. The literature contains several examples of computer- based dynamic simulations being used for pedagogical purposed 1,4,9. But even with these aids, concepts such as eigenvalues, instability, and time constants can seem mysterious to students encountering them for the first time. Haptic interfaces, which allow a user to feel a virtual environment, are promising tools for helping students obtain an understanding of these physical phenomena.

1.1 The Field of Haptics

The word haptic means relating to or based on the sense of touch. It can refer to a human or robot’s ability to sense the world via touch, or the display of a virtual environment through touch. Words often associated with this concept are haptic display, force feedback, and force reflection. All of these are technologies that allow computers to convey realistic physical sensations to users 2. Similar to graphic displays, haptic displays are a useful way of portraying many different kinds of information. Haptic displays take on many forms, depending on the degrees of freedom of sensing and actuation. Many displays are currently available in a (two degree-of-freedom) joystick configuration, for use with entertainment applications such as video games.

Cutkosky, M., & Richard, C., & Okamura, A. (2000, June), Feeling Is Believing: Using A Force Feedback Joystick To Teach Dynamic Systems Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri.

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