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Revisiting The Autonomous Robot: Finding The Engineer Within The Student

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Mobile Robotics in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1071.1 - 9.1071.8



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Paper Authors

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William Dillard

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

Session: 1420

Revisiting the Autonomous Robot: Finding the Engineer within the Student William Dillard 200 Broun Hall ECE Department Auburn University, AL 36849 Voice: (334) 844-1840 Fax: (334) 844-1809

Motivation and Goals In 1999, the ECE department at Auburn University implemented a major curriculum reorganization that created four self-contained laboratories, two at the sophomore level and two in the junior, to introduce students to laboratory procedures and design projects13. The final laboratory, an autonomous robot, is intended to be an open-ended project that prepares students for a senior-level capstone design course. In the lab, students use the PIC12F675 microcontroller from Microchip Technology, Inc. to create an embedded systems solution14. We found that although the robot laboratory was being completed successfully, our average students were not prepared for the independent thinking required in their capstone designs. To address this issue, we identified six new goals and methods for the robot laboratory.

1. Fully custom design – As much as possible, we wanted students to have complete control over the details of their designs, both mechanical and electrical subsystems. 2. Design of experiments – Although a design concept might meet the robot specifications, without step-by-step procedures to validate the design, it is difficult if not impossible to implement efficiently. Having students include verification procedures early in the design process became a major goal. 3. Generating diagnostic procedures – Limited equipment resources impact the verification process and, thus, design options. Sometimes, the clever students can successfully modify their verification scheme, other times the design itself is affected. However, being aware of this reality is part of an efficient implementation. 4. Project management – In the past, the laboratory instructor set the weekly schedule of tasks to be completed. This insulated students from a critical skill in project management - setting realistic milestones that lead to project completion on time. We wanted the students to set their own project schedules within reason. 5. Professionalism and ethics – Recently, the technical and business worlds have been ripe with unethical professional conduct. While the headlines focus on executive officers and pols, we preferred ethics for entry-level engineers. In addition to Lockheed Martin’s “Ethics Challenge” role-play system, we included classroom discussion of case studies taken from industry. 6. Independent Learning – To facilitate the transition from student toward engineer, we decided to provide students with the means to conduct experiments outside the laboratory proper. Each team now purchases a PICkitTM 1 Flash Start Kit

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for engineering Education

Dillard, W. (2004, June), Revisiting The Autonomous Robot: Finding The Engineer Within The Student Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13457

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