Asee peer logo

First Year Real World Competition To Motivate Students

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Electromechanical Curricula

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.614.1 - 13.614.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Joseph Fuehne Purdue University-Columbus

author page

Kathy Bradley MotoTron, Inc

author page

Eric Bradley MotoTron, Inc

Download Paper |

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

AC 2008 – 795 First-Year Real World Competition to Motivate Students


First-year students in Purdue University’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program are normally advised to take courses in English, Speech, Mathematics, Physics and MET classes in materials, and analytical and computational methods. While the materials class offers interesting elements with various types of material testing, the analytical and computational methods class is basically a mathematics review class combined with an introduction to spreadsheet analysis. There is nothing much in the first two semesters of the MET program to create excitement in first-year students, and this presents something of a retention challenge for the program.

In order to provide a real-world experience and an enjoyable competition to motivate students, the MET department at Purdue University in Columbus, Indiana partnered with a local company, MotoTron (, to present the Mechatronics Career Discovery Challenge. Mechatronics combines mechanical, electrical, and software design to produce complex machines. This particular challenge involves writing the software to program a vehicle to navigate a course using a global positioning system (GPS) sensor.

MotoTron representatives provided specific training with Matlab and their own custom-designed software to accomplish the challenge. The vehicle is approximately 4 foot by 2 foot with 4 tires controlled by a steering actuator, a thrust motor, a brake solenoid, and a GPS sensor. Also on the vehicle are heading, yaw rate, and wheel speed sensors to be used for data acquisition.

Students are grouped into teams of 2 or 3 for the competition. Also invited to the competition are teams from the local high schools and the local community college. Teams are grouped into high school and college divisions. There are two 7-hour days of training using the Purdue University computers and lab facilities several weeks in advance of the competition.

Additionally, teams are required to submit their controller software to a design review prior to the competition. After the competition, teams are also required to make a performance presentation, summarizing their data acquisition and performance of the vehicle. The paper details the training, the competition and the results of design reviews and performance presentations.


Retention of college students and particularly freshmen students is a universal concern among institutions of higher education. Typical retention rates of freshmen who go on to take sophomore-level courses are in the 60 -70 % range while the overall five year retention and graduation rate has been reported at 37%.1 Institutions have implemented many potential solutions to address this problem. At Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, the College of Engineering has adopted an “Introduction to Engineering Course” that is required of all freshmen majoring in engineering. The course is described as a “lecture-laboratory course” that “allows students to work with hands-on projects that will teach the usefulness of mathematics and basic

Fuehne, J., & Bradley, K., & Bradley, E. (2008, June), First Year Real World Competition To Motivate Students Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3502

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015