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Student Learning Modules in Trigonometry and Integral Calculus using LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD VII: Innovative Curriculum Elements of Successful First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1333.1 - 22.1333.10



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Paper Authors


Byron L Newberry Oklahoma Christian University

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Dr. Byron Newberry is Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Oklahoma Christian University. He holds a B.S.M.E. degree from Oklahoma Christian University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His interests include stress analysis, nonlinear dynamics, structural vibration, and engineering design.

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Cory R. Davis Oklahoma Christian University


Robert Andrew Stevenson Oklahoma Christian University

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Robert Andrew Stevenson is a graduate level Engineering student at Oklahoma Christian University with a bachelors in Mechanical engineering from the same school. For his senior design project he and his team entered the regular class of the SAE Aero Design East competition and won first place in the presentation portion. After completing his masters he plans on entering into industry for a few years and then considering returning to school to pursue his doctorate degree.

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Student Learning Modules in Trigonometry and Integral Calculus using LEGO MINDSTORMS NXTIn fall 2009 the _______________ engineering programs implemented a new freshmanmathematics courses taken by all engineering students; ENGR-1113 Foundations of EngineeringMathematics. This class, based on a program at Wright State University, serves as a precursor tothe standard calculus sequence. Both lecture and laboratory elements are utilized to engage abroad range of student learners. The primary goals of the course are to improve student retentionand to inspire students to see mathematics as the language of engineering rather than asegregated topic. Every effort is made to make the labs fun and engaging while maintaining therequired mathematics content. Herein two laboratory assignments will be discussed that utilizethe LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robot system to explore the topics of trigonometry andintegral calculus.The trigonometry laboratory requires the students to navigate a maze of known configuration.The students must first calibrate both the linear and rotational motions of a “track robot” to allowprogramming of a specified route. Next, armed with trigonometry, each student team computesan optimized path through the maze that minimizes distance traveled. Finally, the studentsprogram the robot to demonstrate the optimized route. Key learning objectives include the use oflinear interpolation during calibration, performing distance calculations within a Cartesiancoordinate system, and determining the relative angles needed to navigate the maze; requiringthe use of reference angles.The integral calculus laboratory requires the students to estimate the area between a path and acurved wall. The same robot chassis is reused; now equipped with an ultrasonic distancetransducer and wheels. As the robot travels a defined path, it records the distance between itselfand the curved wall. Using the collected distance data, students calculate the area between therobot’s path and the wall. The experiment is performed multiple times with different rates ofdata collection to demonstrate that in the limit the trapezoidal estimate converges to the true area(i.e. the value of the integral).Overall strengths of the projects include (1) easy implementation using the commercial LEGOMINDSTORMS NXT robot system, (2) increased student engagement through hands-on use ofrobotics and (3) integration of computer, software, and mathematical elements into a singleexperience to break down the student’s inclination towards topic segregation. Details from theinaugural use of each lab in fall 2010 are presented.

Newberry, B. L., & Davis, C. R., & Stevenson, R. A. (2011, June), Student Learning Modules in Trigonometry and Integral Calculus using LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18718

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