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Practical Skills for Students in Mechatronics and Robotics Education

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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

Mechatronics and Robotics I

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Carlotta A. Berry Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Carlotta A. Berry is an professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She is the director of the multidisciplinary minor in robotics and co-director of the Rose building undergraduate diversity scholarship and professional development program. She has been the President of the Technical Editor Board for the ASEE Computers in Education Journal since 2012. She is a member of ASEE, IEEE, NSBE, and Eta Kappa Nu.

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Michael A. Gennert Worcester Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Michael A. Gennert is Professor of Robotics Engineering, CS, and ECE at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he leads the WPI Humanoid Robotics Laboratory and was Founding Director of the Robotics Engineering Program. He has worked at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, the University of California Riverside, PAR Technology Corporation, and General Electric. He received the S.B. in CS, S.B. in EE, and S.M. in EECS in 1980 and the Sc.D. in EECS in 1987 from MIT. Dr. Gennert's research interests include robotics, computer vision, and image processing, with ongoing projects in humanoid robotics, robot navigation and guidance, biomedical image processing, and stereo and motion vision. He led WPI teams in the DARPA Robotics Challenge and NASA Space Robotics Challenge and is author or co-author of over 100 papers. His research has been supported by DARPA, NASA, NIH, NSF, and industry. He is a member of Sigma Xi, and a senior member of IEEE and ACM.

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Rebecca Marie Reck Kettering University Orcid 16x16

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Rebecca M. Reck is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. Her research interests include instructional laboratories, assessment, and student motivation. She earned a Ph.D. in systems engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During her eight years as a systems engineer at Rockwell Collins, she earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Iowa State University. She earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

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In SomeMonthYear, the fourth and final workshop on WorkshopTitle was held at a Midwest University. This workshop was organized by faculty at several universities with financial support from industry partners and a government agency. The purpose of the workshops was to create a cohesive effort among mechatronics and robotics courses, minors and degree programs. Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering (MRE) is an integration of mechanics, controls, electronics, and software, which provides a unique opportunity for engineering students to function on multidisciplinary teams. Due to its multidisciplinary nature, it attracts diverse and innovative students, and graduates better-prepared professional engineers. In this fast growing field, there is a great need to standardize educational material and make MRE education more widely available and easier to adopt. This can only be accomplished if the community comes together to speak with one clear voice about not only the benefits, but also the best ways to teach it. These efforts would also aid in establishing more of these degree programs and integrating minors or majors into existing computer science, mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering departments. The final workshop was attended by approximately 50 practitioners from industry and academia. Participants identified many practical skills required for students to succeed in an MRE curriculum and as practicing engineers after graduation. These skills were then organized into the following categories: professional, independent learning, controller design, numerical simulation and analysis, electronics, software development, and system design. For example, professional skills include technical reports, presentations, and documentation. Independent learning includes reading data sheets, performing internet searches, doing a literature review, and having a maker mindset. Numerical simulation skills include understanding data, presenting data graphically, solving and simulating in software such as MATLAB, Simulink and Excel. Controller design involves selecting a controller, tuning a controller, designing to meet specifications, and understanding when the results are good enough. Electronics skills include selecting sensors, interfacing sensors, interfacing actuators, creating printed circuit boards, wiring on a breadboard, soldering, installing drivers, using integrated circuits, and using microcontrollers. Software development of embedded systems includes agile program design, state machines, analyzing and evaluating code results, commenting code, troubleshooting, debugging, AI and machine learning. Finally, system design includes prototyping, creating CAD models, design for manufacturing, breaking a system down into subsystems, integrating and interfacing subcomponents, having a multidisciplinary perspective, robustness, evaluating tradeoffs, testing, validation, and verification, failure, effect, and mode analysis. A survey was prepared and sent out to the participants from all four workshops as well as other robotics faculty, researchers and industry personnel in order to elicit a broader community response. Because one of the biggest challenges in mechatronics and robotics education is the absence of standardized curricula, textbooks, platforms, syllabi, assignments, and learning outcomes, this was a vital part of the process to achieve some level of consensus. This paper presents an introduction to MRE education, related work on existing programs, methods, results of the practical skills survey, and then draws conclusions based upon these results. It aims to create the foundation for standardizing the development of student skills in mechatronics and robotics curricula across institutions, disciplines, majors and minors. The survey was completed by 90 participants and it was clear that there is a consensus that the primary skills students should have upon completion of MRE courses or a program is a broader multidisciplinary systems-level perspective, an ability to problem solve, and an ability to design a system to meet specifications.

Berry, C. A., & Gennert, M. A., & Reck, R. M. (2020, June), Practical Skills for Students in Mechatronics and Robotics Education Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35066

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