June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Computers in Education
13.1375.1 - 13.1375.12
Utilizing Robotics to Facilitate Project-Based Learning: A Student Perspective
Abstract This paper describes a freshman engineering curriculum that utilizes a robotics kit to facilitate hands-on learning. Student participants are required to purchase the robotics kit in lieu of textbooks. In the first of three courses, students implement simple circuits and write BASIC programs to accomplish tasks such as robot navigation and detecting light levels with photoresistors. In the second course, students use their newly acquired skills to implement a system that controls the temperature and salinity of a small volume of water. Through this project, students learn to implement more advanced circuits, including 555 timer circuits, transistor-relay circuits, and resistance temperature detector (RTD) circuits. In third course, students complete an open-ended design project where they conceive, fabricate, and test a working prototype of a “smart product.” The paper describes each of these three freshman courses and provides assessment results and student perspectives on the new project-centered curriculum.
In 1998, the College of Engineering and Science at Louisiana Tech University moved to an integrated engineering curriculum based on the educational practices of the National Science Foundation Educational Coalitions. Our freshman integrated curriculum includes differential calculus, chemistry, physics and several non-technical courses. Students take these courses in “blocks” so that classes of 40 students share the same mathematics, chemistry and engineering courses. The topics presented in the mathematics and science courses are coordinated to some degree with the topics presented in the engineering courses to motivate student learning and to provide some content overlap. The engineering courses are set up in a lecture / laboratory format and meet twice a week for 1 hour and 50 minutes. These three engineering courses add up to six semester hours and span the entire freshman year.
The “original” freshman engineering course sequence between 1998 and the spring of 2007 included engineering fundamentals (circuits, material balance and statics), computer applications (Excel, Mathcad and Solid Edge), statistics, engineering economics, teamwork, communication skills, and a design project. The students did most of their work in teams, including homework problems, laboratory activities and presentations. The freshman year culminated in a design competition between student teams.
In 2002, the College began to pilot a robotics-centered set of freshman courses that were much like the original engineering courses only with a much stronger project focus that was facilitated by the use of mobile robots. The goal of this new curriculum is to engage students in project- based, hands-on learning and to foster innovation by building a wide and varied body of latent knowledge and specialist skills to feed the creative process (as recommended by Cropley and Cropley1). The course comprises seven threads that run throughout the year, including systems, electromechanical, fabrication and acquisition, software, fundamentals, communication and broadening activities; broadening activities include working in teams, giving presentations on
Reed, A., & Creekbaum, T., & Elliott, M., & Hall, D., & Harbour, D. (2008, June), Utilizing Robotics To Facilitate Project Based Learning: A Student Perspective Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4292
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