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Learning Computer Science Through Robotics

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.297.1 - 1.297.6



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Maria Gini

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

Session 1626

Learning Computer Science Through Robotics

Maria Gini University of M i n n e s o t a

The main purpose of this paper is to describe how we are integrating in our undergraduate curriculum a variety of projects in robotics and describe, in particular, an undergraduate project that culminated at the robot competition at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in August 1995. This is part of a large effort aimed at exposing undergraduate students to a variety of projects in robotics, computer vision, and 3D modeling. We have chosen these topics as the sources of projects because of their interdisciplinary nature and because they provide a wide variety of problems where system integration, communication, and cooperation are important. This effort is intended to: motivate the study of advanced applied mathematics by demonstrating its importance to solving real world problems; teach students how to build complete systems (as opposed to write isolated programs; allow them to experiment with the object oriented programming paradigms they learn in class for a variety of complex problems; expose students to application areas (Virtual Reality, 3D modeling for manufacturing, graphical interfaces, real time operating systems, etc. ) where new opportunities for employment or product development might exist; provide hands-on experience with distributed systems and with fundamental issues in communication and real-time control; familiarize the students with hardware interfaces, low level input/output, device drivers, and basic electronics, with hands-on experience; show students how to develop their own independent projects; foster development of leadership skills among students in project teams. Robotics, including computer vision, graphics, and 3D modeling have been selected as application areas because of their interdisciplinary nature and because they provide a wide variety of problems where system integration, communication, and cooperation are important. We have had positive experience over the years with a number of undergraduates working in Robotics and we have observed how it becomes much easier for them to assimilate their course knowledge around projects.

Sample Short Projects Here we describe briefly a few of the short projects we have used in some of our courses.

Object-Oriented Programming: In the introductory courses in Algorithms and Data Structures stu- dents learn the fundamentals of programming. In this project, a limited set of primitive procedures is used to control the movements of a Lego robot. The project exposes students to the simple pro- tocols involved in verifying that a task was performed as programmed, and about handling error conditions. Various data structures need to be used to save information about the environment, such

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Gini, M. (1996, June), Learning Computer Science Through Robotics Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6161

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