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Learning Mechatronics Through Graduated Experimentation

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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

DELOS Best Paper Nominations

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.839.1 - 14.839.11



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Paper Authors


John Rogers United States Military Academy

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John Rogers received the B. S. degree in aerospace and ocean engineering from Virginia Tech in 1986, and the M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Montana State University in 1993, and his Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2003. Dr. Rogers is an Assistant Professor at the United States Military Academy. His research interests are design of mechatronic and robotic systems, and modeling of dynamic systems. Dr. Rogers is a registered professional engineer.

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Robert Rabb United States Military Academy

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Christopher Korpela United States Military Academy

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Ryan Ebel United States Military Academy

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

Learning Mechatronics Through Graduated Experimentation


Mechatronics at the United States Military Academy at West Point is a senior level course that introduces the interdisciplinary design of smart systems. It is a central course in the robotics track of the electrical engineering program, and the centerpiece of the mechanical engineering program mechatronics track. Details of four hands-on activities that are graduated in difficulty are presented in this paper. The culminating lab utilized an unmanned vehicle. Relatively high speeds of the vehicle make the project fun and engaging. Instructors report that the hands-on nature motivates students to excel and be creative. Their often-innovative solutions require the integration of introductory computer programming and microcontroller functions with electrical and mechanical engineering applications. These unique interdisciplinary activities are designed to reinforce classical control theory learned in a prerequisite course. Students cite the hands-on activities in course feedback as relevant applications that help develop deeper understanding and greater appreciation for the theory learned in the classroom. Working through the experiments in order builds student confidence to solve open-ended problems in interdisciplinary teams. The initial assessments of our hands-on approach have been positive.

1. Introduction

At West Point, a Mechatronics course was developed to teach subject matter required for the design of systems which have electrical, mechanical, and programmable aspects. A laboratory-driven approach was developed to bring together the different subjects and to relate classroom theory to real world application. Four laboratory exercises develop the students’ understanding of the material, reinforce prerequisite knowledge, and develop hands-on skills. Engineering mathematics, dynamic modeling of physical systems, Matlab / Simulink simulation, and teamwork are applied to solve several real world problems. The first activity is a resistance-heating thermal system with on- off control for temperature regulation. The Figure 1: Mechatronics students learn through hands-on second activity requires students to write activities. program code to control a small robot. In the third activity, the students use classical control theory to stabilize an unstable magnetically-levitating steel ball. The fourth activity is the autonomous operation of a 1/12 scale electric-powered vehicle. Autonomy is achieved by adding a microcontroller to the system. The paper will also discuss our assessment and some areas for improvement for future course offerings.

Rogers, J., & Rabb, R., & Korpela, C., & Ebel, R. (2009, June), Learning Mechatronics Through Graduated Experimentation Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5371

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