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Results Of Using A Low Cost, Flexible Robot In A Microcontrollers And Robotics Course

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Mobile Robots in Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1046.1 - 13.1046.10



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Paper Authors

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Abraham Howell State University of NY-Binghamton

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Richard Eckert Suny - Binghamton

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Roy McGrann State University of New York-Binghamton

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

Results of using a Low Cost, Flexible Robot in a Microcontrollers and Robotics Course


This paper discusses the results of using a low cost, flexible robot in a computer science microcontrollers and robotics course. Such a course should introduce students to the fundamentals of microcontrollers and robotics. To achieve this goal, students must understand and interact with a microcontroller at both low and high levels. Additionally, a suitable robot platform must be available for the robotics section of the course, so that students can experiment with the concepts and theoretical material discussed in lecture. Historically, this course made use of a popular microcontroller development kit for the first half and then transitioned to a well- known robotics kit for the second half of the course. A disconnect between the first and second half was created since students were required to learn two different systems. It would be more advantageous if the students worked with a single platform throughout the entire course. This would provide students with additional hands-on interaction and time to reinforce the concepts and theories through direct experimentation with real world hardware. A low cost, flexible mobile robot was integrated into the targeted course through the development of three laboratory modules. Through the lab experiments, students directly interacted with the robot’s microcontroller through the use of low-level assembly programming. At the end of the course, students created high-level programs in Visual C# using Microsoft Visual Studio® 2005. Their programs controlled the robot via a wireless Bluetooth® connection and provided high-level intelligence, such as obstacle avoidance and light tracking. The robot’s ability to read and write radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags is a unique feature and opens up the realm of possible experiments. The course, low cost robot, three developed laboratory modules, and results of the student evaluations are discussed in this paper.

Overview of Microcontrollers and Robotics Course

Several years ago the Computer Science Department in the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science at Binghamton University we designed and began to offer an upper-division undergraduate course entitled Microcontrollers and Robotics1. This was done in response to the reality that an important application of computer science is that of using embedded microcomputers to control hardware systems. These are ubiquitous in electronic devices found almost everywhere in modern society, and, in particular, in embedded control systems and robots used in industry, science, and defense. Many modern devices -- as common as microwave ovens or automobiles, to machines that automate and control the positioning of electronic components on printed circuit boards, to pilot-less airplanes used to spy on and/or deliver weapon systems to potential enemy targets, to robots that search for survivors in mining or other disasters, to something as exotic as the Mars Sojourner Rover robot -- use embedded microcontrollers to control hardware. We felt that it was important that computer science students have the opportunity to learn about these devices, how they work, and how to design and program them.

Our course emphasizes those aspects of microcontroller-based control systems and robotics that are most closely related to computer science. These aspects include the following:

Howell, A., & Eckert, R., & McGrann, R. (2008, June), Results Of Using A Low Cost, Flexible Robot In A Microcontrollers And Robotics Course Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3138

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