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Undergraduate Research: How Can It Be Made Effective?

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.451.1 - 2.451.12



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Paper Authors

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Matthew Hayes

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David Pittner

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Bryon Formwalt

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Daniel J. Pack

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

Session 3232

Undergraduate Research: How can it be made effective?

Bryon Formwalt, Matthew Hayes, David Pittner, and Daniel Pack

Department of Electrical Engineering United States Air Force Academy


This paper discusses the cost and the benefit involved in undergraduate research observed by three undergraduate students and one professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the United States Air Force Academy. The three students are seniors who are participating in a year long independent research study course with projects related to robotics: design and gait control of a six legged robot, design and navigational control for a mobile robot, and autonomous helicopter control. The students agree that an undergraduate research project is a valuable ‘bridge’ between their undergraduate academic careers and the next stages of their lives, working as Air Force engineers or continuing the academic path to graduate school. The paper presents the three different student perspectives on the subject of undergraduate research regarding the value, the drawback, and the type of research which can be performed given the constraints of time and advanced knowledge. The paper will also include the opinions of the faculty mentor concerning the observations made by students. In addition, the paper will present their experiences on how an undergraduate research project can be ‘successful’ by addressing the following issues: scope of research, necessary amount of time/effort for the research project, required skills, and degree of required guidance.

I. Introduction

Over the years, it is believed that most, if not all, significant scientific research activities are conducted in the graduate schools. This view is natural since institutions with graduate schools have resources, experiences, and personnel to carry out in-depth studies on specialized subjects. Recently, there has been new interest in undergraduate research in the context of enhancing student learning. Numerous undergraduate institutions do conduct research with the help of their students and some have reported moderate success1. What is lacking in the literature, in our opinion, is clear guidance to initiate an undergraduate research program. To remedy this lack of knowledge, we make a small contribution toward achieving this objective by sharing our undergraduate research experiences.

Three separate undergraduate projects are underway. For each project a single student is responsible for the entire associated task. The three students are among the top

Hayes, M., & Pittner, D., & Formwalt, B., & Pack, D. J. (1997, June), Undergraduate Research: How Can It Be Made Effective? Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6848

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