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Hands On Robot Design In An Introductory Engineering Course

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Teaching Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.625.1 - 8.625.9

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Paper Authors

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Georg Mauer

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

Session 2125

Hands-On Robot Design in an Introductory Engineering Course

Georg Mauer Dept. of Mechanical Engineering University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Our course ‘Introduction to Engineering Design’ is aimed at freshmen students entering Mechanical and Aerospace engineering. The course is structured as a 2-credit lecture coupled with a 1-credit design laboratory. While the lecture presents an overview of the profession, engineering design and methods, small student teams conduct a structured hands-on design project in the lab. Each team develops an autonomous robotic vehicle to perform assignments such as terrain navigation or collection of objects. Students find the robot project highly motivating and voluntarily spend several afternoons weekly working in the lab. The design course ends with a competition among participating teams at the end of the course. Through the design project the students gain valuable experience in professional design, engineering practice, and teamwork. Additional course objectives are student recruitment and retention, i.e. we seek to attract a broader range of students, including those from underrepresented minorities, to the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering program.

Background and History

Prior to the fall 2002 semester, the design project segment of the freshman course ‘Introduction to Engineering Design’ comprised a conceptual design by a team of three to four students. Students would design a solution for an engineering problem, creating several alternatives, selecting evaluation criteria and performing some analysis. These design projects followed a customary format as described in introductory textbooks such as Eide et al [1], Voland [2]. Because the projects remained purely conceptual, the students would not typically devote much energy or motivation to their assignments. Rather, they tended to treat the design project as another obligation required for passing. Motivation levels among students were somewhat low, resulting in a dropout rate averaging about 20% from the enrollment levels at the beginning of the semester.

As is well known from numerous studies, e.g. Parsons et al. [3], motivating learning environments for engineering students are characterized by features such as: • Hands-on creative design • Direct feedback to the student (usually by experiment), either as confirmation of success, or as guidance towards improvement. • Encouragement of creativity and rewarding excellence. Many engineering colleges have restructured their freshmen curricula to reflect these insights and make their programs more attractive and rewarding. Following a series of presentations on

Proceedings Of The 2003 American Society For Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Mauer, G. (2003, June), Hands On Robot Design In An Introductory Engineering Course Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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