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Learning Robotics through Developing A Virtual Robot Simulator in Matlab

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Mechatronics in the Curriculum

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1006.1 - 22.1006.13



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Paper Authors


Yang Cao University of British Columbia

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(Aug. 2007 - Present) Instructor, School of Engineering, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus

(Aug. 2005 - June 2007) Postdoc, Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering, University of Windsor

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Developing A Virtual PUMA560 Robot SimulatorRobotics course is a very common and important course for electrical and mechanicalengineering students. It is also a crucial course in the curriculum of mechatronic program whichis becoming popular in many North America Universities. Robot itself is a perfect example ofmechatronic system. Due to the complexity of the subject, teaching of robotics has always beenchallenging to instructors and at the same time, learning of robotics has always been a dauntingtask to students. Adding to the difficulties for instructors and students is the fact that manyschools don’t have budget for a real industrial robot in assisting the teaching and learning ofsome fundamental concepts of robotics such as forward and inverse kinematics, and control.In the robot modeling and control course (ENGR486) for 4th year engineering students at UBCOkangan, a project-based learning is integrated into the course. The project requires students todevelop a virtual PUMA560-type robot simulator. The simulator should demonstrate theconcepts of forward and inverse kinematics, and basic control techniques such as PIDindependent joint control. The project is divided into 3 phases in synchronize with courseprogress. The first phase requires students to model a PUMA560-type of 6 degrees-of-freedomrobot using Solidworks. Details such as drive systems or electrical wiring are not necessary forthis CAD model. This model with assembly of each link will be imported into MATLAB aspatch objects. The second phase is to develop a graphical user interface which displays therobot configuration as 3D model, and provides options of demonstrating independent jointmotion (forward kinematics) and trajectory following of end-effector (inverse kinematics). Thethird phase is to develop a PID controller for each joint or a model-based nonlinear controller.Students are exposed to popular engineering tools such as Solidworks and MATLAB inmodeling and simulating their robots. Besides providing students hands-on experience ofsimulation, the project proves to be a great aid for teaching and learning the principles ofrobotics. The outcome of this approach is well accepted and highly rated by students.The paper describes the details of the three phases mentioned above and how each phase makesdry mathematic theories alive with aid of computer software. The paper will also discusspossible improvements.

Cao, Y. (2011, June), Learning Robotics through Developing A Virtual Robot Simulator in Matlab Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18266

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