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Integrated And Structured Project Environment In Mechatronics Education

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Design in the Engineering Core

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.680.1 - 7.680.16



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Paper Authors

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Sanford Meek

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Mark Minor

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

Main Menu Session 2366

Integrated and Structured Project Environment in Mechatronics Education

Mark A. Minor, Sanford G. Meek

University of Utah Department of Mechanical Engineering 50 S. Central Campus Dr, Room 2202 Salt Lake City, UT 84112


The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah has developed a two- semester mechatronics course sequence at the third year that is required for all undergraduate mechanical engineering students. In addition to topics that are generally presented in most mechatronics courses; microcontroller use, sensors, actuators, and some electronics; we place a strong emphasis on mechanical system design that considers how design of that system will impact the instrumentation and control process. This provides a more holistic view of system design that emphasizes the implications of mechanical design decisions on system instrumentation and control. We require the students to practice this skill in a two-semester project activity while designing autonomous robots for an end-of-year competition. We have found that a structured design approach closely integrated with the course curriculum is critical for the timely success of the teams. In this paper we examine evolution of the structured design approach and robot themes based on projects from the last nine competitions. In this structured approach, the teams practice generating specific objectives, idea generation, concept selection, analysis and modeling, detailed design, manufacturing, and concept refinement. Initially during fall semester the teams focus primarily on the design and construction of the mechanical portion of their project while considering critical issues such as sensor and actuator placement and selection, and determining what role the micro-controller will play in the system. In spring semester, the robot is then completed by integrating the electronics, microcontroller, programming, and finishing touches to create an autonomous robot. Teams meet with course staff at these milestones to gain feedback and evaluate their progress. Throughout this process they witness directly the impact of their design and instrumentation decisions on the performance of their robot in a fun and competitive environment. The students are then better prepared for their fourth year capstone design project.

1. Introduction

Design is a skill often said to be best learned by experience. At the University of Utah, Mechanical Engineering students learn design by experience in this manner throughout the Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ” 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Meek, S., & Minor, M. (2002, June), Integrated And Structured Project Environment In Mechatronics Education Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10677

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