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Teaching Robotics with Animated Simulations

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Endeavors: Mechatronics, Robotics, and Technology

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Luis Alberto Rodriguez Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. Luis A. Rodriguez is currently an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). He completed his doctoral training at the University of California-Irvine where he was a National Science Foundation Bridge to the Doctorate Fellow. He completed his master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he was a GEM fellow and Graduate Engineering Research Scholar. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from University of California San Diego. His interests include robot control, design of mechatronics systems, pneumatic actuation, motion planning and optimal control.

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In this paper, we present a pedagogical method to teach the fundamentals of Robotics. The process provides an intuitive way to create, manipulate, and simulate robots or multi-body systems. The method consists of constructing the robot geometry using a 3D modeling software such as Solidworks and importing it into MATLAB. Once in the MATLAB environment, homogenous body transformations are used to manipulate the geometry. The innovative aspect of this process is that the student directly sees how the classroom theory is used to bring their robot creations to life using the widely accessible and computationally intuitive programming MATLAB language. Many robotic toolboxes available which help with the visualization and manipulation of robots often obscure the underlying robotics theory with abstract black boxes or layers of programming abstraction that make the toolboxes more robust, efficient, and more general purpose. These robot toolboxes are often more beneficial to those with programming experience, who have some background in robotics and are not concerned with the underlying theory. One goal of this work is to make teaching the fundamentals of robotic theory more accessible to students that may have limited program ability and to give them a direct link between theory and simulation. A second goal is to formalize the process that is often buried in toolboxes and class definitions. Several examples of student work are presented in the paper to showcase the ease, usefulness, and capability of the process.

Rodriguez, L. A. (2021, July), Teaching Robotics with Animated Simulations Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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