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“Just in Time” Mechatronics in Senior Design Capstones

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Experimentation and Laboratory-oriented Studies Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Robert J. Rabb P.E. The Citadel

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Robert Rabb is a professor and the Mechanical Engineering Program Director at The Citadel. He previously taught mechanical engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Military Academy and his M.S.E. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. His research and teaching interests are in mechatronics, regenerative power, and multidisciplinary engineering.

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James Righter The Citadel

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James Righter is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the School of Engineering (SOE) at The Citadel. He earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy, his MS in Military Studies from the Marine Corps University Command and Staff College, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University. His research interests include design methods, engineering leadership, collaborative design, and engineering education.

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Capstone courses and projects are very important activities for student outcomes of an academic program. Capstone courses integrate and further build on the learning outcomes from many of the courses students study. Integrating mechatronics into a senior capstone design project is not always possible. However, much like a senior capstone project, mechatronics is a course that allows students to exercise their creativity and problem solving skills using project based learning and exercising teamwork. In this paper, sample capstone design projects using mechatronics and their outcomes will be presented. In particular, this paper gives an overview of the developed devices specifically by focusing on the design and development aspects of the prototypes. Students at [Institution] begin their senior year taking both the capstone course and the mechatronics course. Teams that may have a mechatronics application or subsystem in their capstone project are encouraged in the mechatronics course to develop part of it or demonstrate the proof of concept. This meets requirements for both courses and allows students to produce better capstone projects.

Mechatronics was originally viewed as a simple combination of mechanical and electrical systems, but as technology and capability have advanced, the field of mechatronics has expanded to include mechanical engineering, electronics, computer engineering, and controls engineering. This multidisciplinary nature of mechatronics makes it an ideal basis from which to construct new capabilities and knowledge. Within the mechatronics course at [Institution], many students comprehend some basics of the mechatronic disciplines, but now must integrate these areas while implementing new devices for the labs. The suggested approach in the mechatronics course is a progressive project that builds on the previous iteration. Students can choose their own mechatronics application project. This paper briefly describes several hands-on labs that progress in difficulty. Students are encouraged to think about the final product and work towards employing portions of it in each subsequent lab. For those that follow this approach, the final integration is much easier than those who treat each lab as a new requirement. Student reviews and embedded indicators show they are meeting the desired outcomes and enjoy the challenges. Students with very little programming experience quickly gain aptitude and increase their confidence in critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving skills. In the course evaluations, students mention the open ended, labs as relevant applications in general and to their senior design capstone that helped them improve their understanding and appreciation for the theory learned in the classroom. Instructors report that the hands-on nature and project selection motivates students to be creative and accomplish more than the minimum.

Rabb, R. J., & Righter, J. (2020, June), “Just in Time” Mechatronics in Senior Design Capstones Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--33972

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