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Robotics Retrofit: Filling the Gap in Robotics and Automation Curriculum

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Technology Potpourri

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37689

Download Count

3

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Paper Authors

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Gregory Lyman Central Washington University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-8179-8434

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Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Electronics Engineering Technology at Central Washington University. On the web at: www.cwu.edu/engineering/eet

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Rowdy A. Sanford University of Idaho

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B.S. in Electronics Engineering Technology, from Central Washington University class of 2020. Currently a graduate student studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Idaho.

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Jeff R. Wilcox Central Washington University

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Lecturer and EET program Engineering Technician. He holds a MS in Physical Chemistry an MS in Industrial Engineering and a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology.

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Timothy L. Sorey Central Washington University

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Timothy L. Sorey, PhD. is a science educator who is a full professor at Central Washington University - Ellensburg. He has a dual appointment with the Chemistry Department and Science and Mathematics Education Department. Please visit his departmental website for more information (https://www.cwu.edu/chemistry/tim-sorey).

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Abstract

Many engineering technology programs are implementing robotics and automation platforms into their undergraduate curriculums. However, presenting students with an industry-applicable and budget-friendly platform for such a curriculum can be a surprisingly difficult challenge. Program faculty have reviewed a plethora of robotics platforms and determined that most readily-available robotics platforms fall into two categories: robotics toys, and industrial robotics. Both of these categories can provide a wealth of educational components, but both also have their limitations. Robotics toys (e.g. LEGO Mindstorms, VEX) provide a solid introduction to robotics software programming and mechanical movements due to their modular construction. However, they do not necessarily fit into the industrial side of the robotics curriculum where it’s best to train students on platforms they would work on in industry. Inversely, industrial robotics platforms (e.g. Fanuc, Mitsubishi, and Universal Robots) give students the ability to learn on industry-applicable equipment, but limitations are also present. Firstly, these robots can be quite expensive, and out of reach for most budgets. Secondly, there is a “black-box” aspect of these platforms, where access to internal mechanical and electrical components is limited. Restricted access to various levels of software for programming the robots is also a limitation. The limited-access design of these systems is important for industrial automation facilities, where exposure of internal components would be potentially problematic and hazardous. In an educational setting, however, having the ability to see and analyze the motors, gears, linkages, and electrical components, under safety-guided rigor, could be a handy pedagogical tool. Faculty have developed a unique way to fill this gap: retrofit older robotics platforms with newer technologies. In this project, several 30+-year-old robots were disassembled, reverse engineered, and then updated with modern components. The result is a complete set of robots where full access to mechanical, electrical, and software components is achieved. With the retrofit completed, the intention of this innovative solution is to fill the gap between robotics toys and industrial robotics within the mechatronics curriculum. In a year-long lab-based course sequence, students can begin learning concepts on the robotics toys, shifting to these retrofitted systems for more advanced concepts, then finish the sequence on the industrial robots. Pre-test and post-test assessments of student learning, as well as anecdotal evidence, were collected during the first year of implementation. Although the results of our formative and summative student assessment are not statistically significant, the corresponding analysis of the data infers that we have a plausible solution to the problem and can make evidence-based changes to our curriculum for future offerings of this course sequence.

Lyman, G., & Sanford, R. A., & Wilcox, J. R., & Sorey, T. L. (2021, July), Robotics Retrofit: Filling the Gap in Robotics and Automation Curriculum Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37689

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