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Use Of Robots To Teach Information Technology And Problem Solving At West Point

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Mobile Robotics in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1238.1 - 7.1238.10



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Paper Authors

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Thomas Morel

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

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Tom Morel, Rusl Flowers, Jerry Schumacher, Don Welch

Abstract As part of an ongoing initiative to continually revise and improve its introductory computer science/information technology courses, the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the United States Military Academy has added the use of LEGO MindStorms robots and Java as part of the active-learning environment used to teach Information Technology (IT) and problem solving with computers. The use of robots and a robot simulator adds a visual component to problem solving using computers. The Army and the Nation must ensure that its future leaders understand and are capable of taking advantage of IT; therefore, the United States Military Academy at West Point requires all students to take a course on IT and problem solving with computers. This course is an important first opportunity to expose undergraduate students to technology and concepts that will be a part of their daily lives and future careers. The LEGO MindStorms robots are used in the introductory computer science course to teach problem solving skills and fundamental computer programming concepts, and to introduce the concepts of autonomous vehicles, embedded computer systems, sensors, and computer simulation. Positive short-term impact on the students taking the course has been substantial, and while the long-term impact has yet to be measured, it also has the potential to be substantial. Members of the faculty at West Point developed a Java-based programming environment for the LEGO MindStorms robot called Jago. Jago combines the object -oriented Java language with the LEGO MindStorms robot and enables students to write programs in Ja va that will run in a graphic simulator that can be executed on their own machines. Jago enables the students to see their algorithmic solutions, which helps students to more easily grasp what is happening versus a text - based solution. The cadets are clearly excited to use these learning tools. We have also added lessons that require the students to construct sensors for the LEGO robot as well as program the sensors to complete a final problem-solving project. The short-term results include increased interest in the course objectives and graded assignments. Long-term results have yet to be measured but we are encouraged by both the students’ and instructors’ positive feedback.


The United States Military Academy requires all incoming plebes (freshmen) to enroll in CS 105 – Introduction to Computing. This 40-lesson course provides an introduction to the principles of computing along with an overview and introduction to information technology (IT). The course has two objectives, which are accomplished using hands-on activities, group projects, and active learning within the classroom. The first objective is to teach the cadets about problem solving through the use of the Engineering Thought Process and the Java programming language. This objective is accomplished with lessons on problem solving and programming. The second objective is to introduce and familiarize the cadets with current and evolving information technology, including teaching the cadets how to teach themselves using the Internet, World

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Morel, T. (2002, June), Use Of Robots To Teach Information Technology And Problem Solving At West Point Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10152

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