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Project Based Learning Using the Robotic Operating System (ROS) for Undergraduate Research Applications

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Engaging Faculty Across Disciplines, Colleges, and Institutions

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Stephen Andrew Wilkerson P.E. York College PA

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Stephen Wilkerson ( received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1990 in Mechanical Engineering. His Thesis and initial work was on underwater explosion bubble dynamics and ship and submarine whipping. After graduation he took a position with the US Army where he has been ever since. For the first decade with the Army he worked on notable programs to include the M829A1 and A2 that were first of a kind composite saboted munition. His travels have taken him to Los Alamos where he worked on modeling the transient dynamic attributes of Kinetic Energy munitions during initial launch. Afterwards he was selected for the exchange scientist program and spent a summer working for DASA Aerospace in Wedel, Germany 1993. His initial research also made a major contribution to the M1A1 barrel reshape initiative that began in 1995. Shortly afterwards he was selected for a 1 year appointment to the United States Military Academy West Point where he taught Mathematics. Following these accomplishments he worked on the SADARM fire and forget projectile that was finally used in the second gulf war.
Since that time, circa 2002, his studies have focused on unmanned systems both air and ground. His team deployed a bomb finding robot named the LynchBot to Iraq late in 2004 and then again in 2006 deployed about a dozen more improved LynchBots to Iraq. His team also assisted in the deployment of 84 TACMAV systems in 2005. Around that time he volunteered as a science advisor and worked at the Rapid Equipping Force during the summer of 2005 where he was exposed to a number of unmanned systems technologies. His initial group composed of about 6 S&T grew to nearly 30 between 2003 and 2010 as he transitioned from a Branch head to an acting Division Chief. In 2010-2012 he again was selected to teach Mathematics at the United States Military Academy West Point. Upon returning to ARL's Vehicle Technology Directorate from West Point he has continued his research on unmanned systems under ARL's Campaign for Maneuver as the Associate Director of Special Programs. Throughout his career he has continued to teach at a variety of colleges and universities. For the last 4 years he has been a part time instructor and collaborator with researchers at the University of Maryland Baltimore County ( He is currently an Assistant Professor at York College PA.

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Jason Forsyth York College of Pennsylvania

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Jason Forsyth is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at York College of Pennsylvania. He received his PhD from Virginia Tech in May 2015. His major research interests are in wearable and pervasive computing. His work focuses on developing novel prototype tools and techniques for interdisciplinary teams.

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Christopher Michael Korpela United States Military Academy

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LTC Christopher Korpela is an Academy Professor serving as the Deputy Director of the Electrical Engineering Program. His previous military assignments include: Tank Platoon Leader, Scout Platoon Leader, Troop Executive Officer, Squadron Adjutant, and Squadron Assistant Operations Officer in 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. During a brief break in service, he worked in the civilian sector as a hardware engineer for National Semiconductor Corporation. He deployed as the Headquarters Commander for the 439th Engineer Battalion (USAR) while attached to 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2010, he served as the 2nd Infantry Division Network Engineer at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea. During the Summer of 2015, he deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. LTC Korpela is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, Engineer Captains Career Course, Combined Arms and Services Staff School, Command and General Staff College, Ranger School, Airborne School, and Air Assault School. His research interests include robotics, aerial manipulation, and embedded systems.

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Project-based learning (PBL) has been shown to be one of the more effective methods teachers use in engineering and computer science education. PBL increases the student’s motivation in various topic areas while improving student self-learning abilities. Typically, PBL has been employed most effectively with junior- and senior-level bachelor of science (B.S.) engineering and computer science students. Some of the more effective PBL techniques employed by colleges and universities include robotics, unmanned air vehicles (drones), and computer science-based technologies for modeling and simulation (M&S). More recently, an open-source software framework for robotic and drone development, called the Robot Operating System (ROS), has been made available through the Open Source Robotics Foundation. While not an actual Operating System (OS), ROS provides the software framework for robot software and associated hardware implementation. In this paper, we examine the use of ROS as a catalyst for PBL and student activities in undergraduate research. ROS provides students, after some time investment, with the ability to develop robotic capabilities at a high level. Moreover, ROS allows a building-block approach to robotics research. The results and “how-to” data from our projects are provided on GitHub to accelerate future efforts with other PBL learning endeavors. A results-based evaluation criteria will be used as a partial measure of merit. To this end, we post usage data from cited repositories as evidence of the contribution. We will also contrast expenditure of time and effort vs. a traditional classwork environment while coupling some measure of comprehension and mastery of the underlying research topics used by the students in their undergraduate research topic.

Wilkerson, S. A., & Forsyth, J., & Korpela, C. M. (2017, June), Project Based Learning Using the Robotic Operating System (ROS) for Undergraduate Research Applications Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28768

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