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Utilizing Robotics In Teaching Microcontroller Programming To Manufacturing Engineering Students

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Automation and Robotics Subjects in Manufacturing Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1341.1 - 14.1341.9



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Paper Authors


Arif Sirinterlikci Robert Morris University Orcid 16x16

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ARIF SIRINTERLIKCI is currently an Associate Professor of Engineering at Robert Morris University. He has been the Coordinator of the RMU Learning Factory and Director of Engineering Laboratories. He holds a B.S. and an M.S., both in Mechanical Engineering from Istanbul Technical University in Turkey, and a PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the Ohio State University. He has conducted research and taught in mechanical, industrial, manufacturing engineering, and industrial technology fields. He has been active in ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) and SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) as an officer of the Manufacturing Division and an advisor to technical communities and student chapters, respectively.

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

Utilizing Robotics in Teaching Microcontroller Programming to Manufacturing Engineering Students Abstract

This study presents the effort to add microcontroller content to an industrial controls course in a manufacturing engineering program. Industrial control courses in manufacturing engineering programs typically cover Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC’s). In addition to the PLC content, the author has added hard-wired and integrated-circuit (IC) based elements to his course over the past few years. The schedule now encompasses simple but effective microcontroller content. VEX Robotics Design System and its Easy C programming language were selected due to their simplicity and engineering students’ background in C++ programming. Students taking this controls course are assigned a simple fixed-goal task and work in teams to accomplish it. The task has been determined as navigating a rover robot through the department’s Learning Factory. In the process, they learn about microcontrollers, their integration with sensors and actuators, and utilize their programming skills in a practical control application. Moreover, by taking the course students are exposed to a variety of technologies including hard-wired logic, IC’s, PLC’s, Programmable Automation Controllers (PAC’s), and microcontrollers giving them the power of comparing and contrasting each element’s capabilities and utilization areas. This activity is also the only exercise for the manufacturing engineering majors to utilize their high- level programming knowledge and skills in an engineering problem unlike the software engineering majors within the department.


This study focuses on teaching microcontroller programming, and associated sensory input devices and actuators to manufacturing engineering students. In his semester long course ENGR 4400 - Device Control, the author has been following a sequence that included (i) hard-wired relay logic, (ii) integrated-circuit (IC) based digital logic, and (iii) Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) based controls.

With the hard-wired logic section, students learn about practical control applications such as standard push-button motor starters, H-bridges for directional motor controls, sequential control circuits, and auto-switching back-up lighting systems as well as generation of control logic based on switches and relays1. An example circuit built on a relay-trainer, designed and assembled in- house is shown in Figure 1.

On the other hand, the IC section introduces Fundamentals of Digital Electronics, Binary Logic and Boolean Algebra, especially the Objective Digital Design Methodology with Karnaugh Maps2. Students simulate their digital control circuits in National Instruments (NI) LabView software before building them on NI ELVIS (Electronics Laboratory Virtual Instrumentation Suite) workstations. While Figure 2.a depicts a digital logic generated in NI LabView, Figure 2.b is the actual circuit built on an NI ELVIS workstation. The IC section is also populated with realistic or close to realistic cases and examples.

Sirinterlikci, A. (2009, June), Utilizing Robotics In Teaching Microcontroller Programming To Manufacturing Engineering Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5676

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