June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Computers in Education
11.1222.1 - 11.1222.10
Teaching Robot Design: Student-Driven, Open-Ended Design Projects
In this paper, we describe an open-ended robot design exercise that focuses on the design process. Students are tasked with defining a set of objectives, developing a solution strategy and constructing a final system. Students undertaking this exercise are working toward a metric based on sound engineering design, in contrast to the victory-based metrics typically associated (in the students’ minds) with robotics competitions. The proposed format allows students a truly open-ended experience, since they must develop problem specifications themselves. Instructor support is required to assist in the development of an appropriate problem as well as during the design phase, but a well-prepared instructor can look forward to an extremely beneficial exercise that strongly motivates students and provides substantial dividends for the students in regards to robotics and engineering design in general.
Robot design is a challenging topic to teach in a traditional course1. Most approaches to instruction in robot design focus on subsystem design followed by a common design project (typically involving a competition). While this method provides students with experience in designing a robot to achieve certain objectives, there is often a distinct lack of rigor in the design process itself, with only success in the final competition as the metric by which the students evaluate their overall performance. Due to this ‘goal-minded’ behavior, students often resort to ad hoc methods for design, losing sight of the principles of the discipline.
To alleviate this problem, we provide students with an opportunity to develop their own design project and then carry it out as part of a course on mobile robot design. Student teams (typically comprising three students) complete their design over the course of several weeks and present to their peers both their project concept and the outcomes of their design. Peer evaluations provide valuable insight into the validity of the project and appropriate design methods. In this paper, we lay out the learning objectives and instructional strategies associated with this approach and provide student feedback on their experience. We focus on the pedagogical advantages of the method, including an increased emphasis on design methodology and problem specifications.
Student-directed design provides students with a great deal of flexibility, but also places on them the onus of developing a nontrivial project that involves all aspects of the course and the design process. The project discussed in this work follows several others in the more classical form, involving open-ended but completely specified problems in navigation, design for terrain, etc. Thus, students enter this exercise with several clear examples of appropriate projects as well as graded outcomes from their previous designs.
It is a fallacy common of modern robotics instruction that the discipline is primarily a vehicle for instruction in basic engineering principles. In fact, robotics is an important and robust discipline in its own right. As such, a key component of this design project is to synthesize a complete design based on previous experiences in the course, providing students with added experience
Bishop, B., & Wick, C., & Piper, G. (2006, June), Teaching Robot Design: Student Driven, Open Ended Design Projects Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/1096
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