June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Computers in Education
This research to practice full paper presents an innovative practice of ‘Engineering Education’ in respect of Robotics in Mechanical Engineering Technology. Robotics is one of the most comprehensive majors since it needs to address many extremely complicated problems involving mechanical engineering (ME), electrical engineering (EE), computer science (CS), and information technology (IT). In addition, Robotics is currently making students more and more competitive in respect of the employment opportunities and the salaries when being compared with the traditional focuses in ME. However, the students whose focus is Robotics in Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) are suffering three difficulties: (1) Weak fundamental knowledge related EE, CS and IT is a fatal defect. In MET, the baccalaureate-level courses mainly focus on the mechanical system design, mechanics, dynamics, and simulation. Therefore, the students lack the systematical training in the area of EE, CS and IT. (2) Technology programs mainly focus on hands-on skills instead of theoretical analysis. One of the educational goals in MET is to cultivate future technologists rather than researchers. Therefore, the emphasis of MET curricula on applications compared with mechanical engineering curricula impairs the students’ deeper understanding of the advanced concepts and theories required by robotics. (3) The limited number of robotics class hours constrain the extended application and practice of the knowledge related to advanced robotics. Therefore, devising an efficient educational pedagogy for the robotics classes of the MET program is desirable. In order to overcome the above-mentioned problems, a project-based pedagogy for robotics is devised and implemented in the Department of MET. There are there levels of robotics courses ranging from ‘introduction’, ‘application’ to ‘advanced’. A serial of projects corresponding to different levels are designed, and then are assigned to students. The students learn and practice the fundamental theories of robotics through projects instead of mathematical analysis. This pedagogy has two advantages over the traditional teaching methodology. First, the projects let the students understand the theories spontaneously. By practicing the theories through specific projects, the students can connect the applications with the specific knowledge once they are given some hints. In addition, the students are encouraged to expand the given projects with the practiced theories. Therefore, the understanding to the knowledge is enhanced. Second, the goal of the proposed educational pedagogy is to release the dependency on advanced algorithms and optimization (data processing, noisy control, robust optimization, etc.). During the implementation of the proposed pedagogy, several frameworks which integrate different sensors, actuators and controllers are developed and given to the students. Then, by the employment of these frameworks, the students can familiarize themselves with the principal concepts of robotics, practice the application of hardware and software, create their own innovative projects and prepare themselves for their entry into the job market, thus supporting the central educational goal of cultivating technologists in MET. Moreover, these ready-to-use frameworks avoid exposing the students to complicated algorithms and appropriately balances the students’ time between theory and practice, thus letting them focus more on the applications of robotics. Therefore, both the students and instructors can take advantage of the limited number of class hours to develop sophisticated projects. After the implementation of the proposed pedagogy, the students can master the theories, know the usage of the hardware and software, and gain rich experience in robotics. Over the courses of the semesters, the students were able to build practical devices within the frameworks, for example, a miniature smart building, drone, floor cleaning robot and quadcopter. In addition, the pedagogy enhanced the students’ understanding of the fundamental concepts, and the practical applications inspired the students’ interest in this course, which also improved their performance.
Zhang, Z., & Zhang, A., & Zhang, M., & Esche, S. K. (2019, June), Project-based Robotics Courses for the Students of Mechanical Engineering Technology Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33209
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