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From Handy Board To Vex: The Evolution Of A Junior Level Robotics Laboratory Course

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

LABVIEW-Based Experiments and Robotics Laboratory

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.641.1 - 14.641.11



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Paper Authors

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Yanfei Liu Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne

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

From Handy Board to VEX: Evolution of a Junior Level Robotics Laboratory Course


A new set of autonomous robotics experiments for a junior level course is described in this paper. These experiments are based on the VEX robotics kit with the MPLAB software both of which offer more flexibility for the students to apply their mechanical and software design knowledge to build an autonomous mobile robot. The students work in groups and each group has at least one mechanical engineering major and one electrical or computer engineering major. This type of grouping ensures that students are exposed to a multi-disciplinary working experience, which is one of the desired outcomes of this course. Preliminary assessment results about the level of satisfaction that the students have about various components of the course are also presented.


Since ancient times robotics has always been a fascinating topic and thus it can be used as a vehicle to excite young people who are interested in engineering, science and technology. The Department of Engineering at Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) offers a junior level robotics course with a companion laboratory course. This course is required for students from three majors: computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. The course content includes introduction to microcontrollers ( Cs), actuators, analog and digital sensors, electronics, and programmable logic controllers. The justification to have this course in the curricula is twofold. First is to provide a basic knowledge about electromechanical systems to students since nowadays there are very few systems that can be categorized as either pure electrical system or mechanical system. Second is to help student build multidisciplinary team skills.

Robotics is an appropriate technical field for the integration of different engineering curricula topics and therefore it has been adopted into undergraduate studies at many universities. Manseur1 developed a senior level course including teaching theoretical knowledge of robot manipulators, such as kinematics, dynamics, and control, as well as hands-on laboratories that build Lego robots with the MIT Handy Board2. Juliano and Renner3 designed an undergraduate robotics course that emphasizes laboratory activities using two different robotics kits, LEGO Mindstorms and Parallax Boe–Bots. Beer et al.4 described a robotics course that uses LEGO robotic kits and the MIT Handy Board for both undergraduate and graduate students. In this course, undergraduate and graduate students are asked to design and build a robot to compete in a final egg hunt contest; however, graduate students are required to finish extra writings and outside class readings. Lauwers and Nourbakhsh5 presented an ongoing effort to design a CS Freshman curriculum using a common robotic platform. The goal of this freshman curriculum is to motivate students about computing using robots as an application area. The overall goal is to stop the steeply declining enrollment in computer science studies.

Liu, Y. (2009, June), From Handy Board To Vex: The Evolution Of A Junior Level Robotics Laboratory Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5602

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