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Teaching Optimal Energy Expenditure Using Robotic Platforms And Microcontrollers

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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

Electromechanical Curricula

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1169.1 - 13.1169.12



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Paper Authors


Vincent Winstead Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Dr. Vincent Winstead is an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering and technology department at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Dr. Winstead completed his Ph.D. degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in Electrical Engineering with a specialization in control systems. He had worked as a systems engineer for the U.S. Air Force and as a powertrain control research engineer for Ford Motor Company. Dr. Winstead is a registered professional engineer and holds numerous patents in hybrid vehicle system optimization and camless valvetrain control.

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

Teaching Optimal Energy Expenditure Using Robotic Platforms and Microcontrollers


In this paper we describe an example of a project-centered approach to teaching optimal (i.e. minimal) electric energy expenditure while navigating through a set of coordinate waypoionts in a mobile vehicle. The platform used is an in-house ruggedized robot design based on a commercially available robotic chassis design, commercially available parts and a simple sensor suite incorporating a multi-channel Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver module for navigation, a voltage sensor and a current sensor for measuring electric power. The choice of rugged chassis design enables flexibility in the use of the GPS receiver for navigation over multiple types of terrain outdoors. The vehicle is used as a platform to integrate sensor data processing and a microcontroller-based control system. This approach to teaching concepts using robotic platforms is not revolutionary, but the use of robotics in introducing navigation concepts as well as methodologies of optimization was found to encourage the students to consider real world design challenges condensed in just a few weeks out of one semester. A description of the evolution of the topics is provided along with the content of the project tasks. In addition, a description of the hardware and software implementation completed to provide a usable robot chassis for the students is provided.


The use of robotic platforms as a teaching mechanism for mechatronics, artificial intelligence, motion planning and multiple degree of freedom actuators is fairly common in academia. A robotic platform provides students with ample opportunity to explore the non-ideal conditions of imperfect sensor accuracy, sensor noise, differences in actuator performance and other challenging design issues in an embedded system. Robotics, in general, is well suited for exploring integrated system designs combining aspects of multiple engineering specialty areas. For these and other reasons, robot motion and sensing was chosen as a core topic in the senior level undergraduate embedded systems course assigned as an elective as part of the electronic and computer engineering technology degree programs within the department. The embedded systems course was designed as a way to

Winstead, V. (2008, June), Teaching Optimal Energy Expenditure Using Robotic Platforms And Microcontrollers Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3191

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