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Implementing a College Level Robotics Course
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Implementing a College Level Robotics Course



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  • 1. Implementing a College Level Robotics Course Jeanine Meyer Purchase College/SUNY
  • 2. Overview
    • Background/motivation for course
    • Course description
      • Upper-level elective: can satisfy requirements for mathematics/computer science and new media majors
    • Reflections
    • Work for you!
  • 3. Background
    • [ancient] work in robotics at IBM Research
  • 4. Background, cont.
    • Box frame robot
    • A Manufacturing Language (AML)
    • Software for out-sourced Scara robot
    • Manufacturing systems
      • Tools for logistics
      • Robot surgery (….Robodoc)
  • 5. Why do course
    • Reviewed book on Robotic Sumo by David Perdue
      • he is working on a Mindstorms book
    • Wanted to return to previous interest
    • Give students introduction [taste] of operating in the physical world
      • Variability
      • Continuous phenomena as opposed to discrete
      • Dangers
      • Interactions
      • Time
  • 6. And…
    • We are all grand masters at …putting things on top of other things,….assembly, recognizing many patterns, etc.
    • Peter Will, IBM
    • This makes the programming more difficult, not less.
  • 7. First day exercise
    • Ways to program robot
      • Teleoperator
      • Teach/playback
      • Program with sensory feedback
        • Data driven automation
    • What are the directions / how do you teach someone to tie shoes?
  • 8. Problems at my institution
    • Students not engineers, not particularly strong programmers
      • Mathematics/computer science
      • New media
      • Other
    • Wide variety of backgrounds, including
      • Students who have ‘done robotics’ in middle school or high school
    • Little technical support
  • 9. Lego Mindstorms
    • Partial solution
      • Capped enrollment at 15
      • Restrict kits to the lab
        • Made exceptions towards the end
        • 2 out of 15 students purchased their own kits
      • Team work is a goal!
      • Basic building projects: 5 teams of 3
      • Their building projects … 8 + 2 were enough
      • Involved the 2 building computer engineers
        • Encouraged them to build tribot
        • Had them substitute when I was away
      • Needed to request funds from centralized source: 8 kits
  • 10. Another problem
    • Given all this robotics activity in k-12, how to make this a college course? Would colleagues and/of students think this was just playing with toys?
    • Note: this may have been unwarranted worry.
      • We need electives.
      • I was willing to take on the task for developing a new course.
      • People know my history….
  • 11. Approach
    • Lego Mindstorms only part of the course
      • Students responsible for defining building project
    • Other part
      • My lectures on robotics plus
      • Students responsible for
        • Library research assignment
        • Posting and responding to news on on-line discussion board
  • 12. Course Components
    • Listen & participate in lecture & discussion
    • Propose, get approval and do library research & make presentation on robot topic
      • Making presentations is a goal by itself
      • 1 page write-up
    • Pay attention to news and make postings & reply to others on robot topics
    • Build the assigned Mindstorm projects: teams
    • Plan and complete original Mindstorm project: teams or individual [or different hardware]
    • Midterm and Final
  • 13. Lecture topics
    • Levels of language
    • Basic mechanics
    • Very, very basic kinematics & reverse kinematics
    • Types of manufacturing, automation
    • Artificial intelligence
    • Anthropomorphic fallacy (?)
    • 3D CAD (Google Sketchup)
    • Movement in a crowded workspace
    • Locomotion (e.g., walking, crawling)
    • Telepresence
    • Surgery
  • 14. Lecture & Discussion Board topics
    • Home health care
    • Soccer robotics
    • Prothestics
    • Vacuuming
    • DARPA competitions
  • 15. Mindstorms projects
    • Tribot
      • Basics with tribot
        • Using each sensor
        • Creating file data
      • Mapping a room
    • Bluetooth (2 or 3 NXT bricks, maybe in tribots)
    • Student defined projects
  • 16. Aside on Bluetooth
    • It took me time and experimentation AND using on-line forums to understand it.
    • This is a lesson for the students
        • I think….
  • 17. Mapping exercise
    • Assume tribot or tribot like robot with typical sensors (bump, ultrasound, rotation), file capability
    • You define the constraints, for example, room must be square, or polygon.
    • How to generate data to be uploaded to personal computer to draw the [boundaries of] room.
  • 18. Materials
    • Schedule, lecture notes, midterm and final all online newmedia.purchase.edu/~Jeanine/charts.html
  • 19. Library research reports
    • Locomotion
    • Space
    • Animatronics
    • Muscle wire
    • Toy
    • Cars
    • Healthcare
    • Mars Rover
    • Telepresence
    • Robot surgery
    • MIT leg lab
    • 17 th -18 th century robots
    • Omnicircus
    • Microsoft Robotics Studio
    • Autonomous vehicle
  • 20. Final Building projects
    • Walking puppy (didn’t work, but…)
    • Cat and mouse
    • Wall follower (not reliable)
    • Maze wall follower sending information to NXT
    • Sumo Crystal & Alexandria's video
    • Building robot using own hardware
    • Demonstrate toy
  • 21. Results
    • Success!
      • [I believe] students understood the difficulties of robotic applications and the wide variety of robot related research & development
      • Students did well on quizzes and attempted interesting projects
      • Autonomous survey
        • Limited participation (7/15) but did include the students I expected to be negative, if anyone was, and didn’t include the most enthusiastic.
      • Informal feedback positive
        • 3 students doing independent studies with me in the Fall.
    • Good, easy-going group of students so teams worked
    • Note: most students knew me and so expected things such as presentations, posting, working in teams, quiz guides
  • 22. Survey
    • What did you like best…?
      • Building, lab & lecture time, hands-on, experience of professor with older forms…
    • What would you change in the course?
      • Less required posting, historical readings, other programming languages, more on servos, NOT MUCH
    • How would you describe the course to others?
      • Interesting manufacturing.., relaxed, fun, different
    • 71% strongly agreed or agreed that working in teams with the kits was successful in terms of learning
    • 43% neutral (none negative) on on-line discussion.
  • 23. General comment
    • I think the course in general was great. I would have liked to have a done a little more work in the labs.
    • I really liked this class as a new media class due to its lack of forcing art on us. I think this let the learning take charge instead of focusing on trying to be creative, which lead to being plenty creative.
    • i thought it was a great course overall
    • wonderful class.. fun working in projectss with peers
    • It would be helpful to some how make the Lego more readily available to assist in learning the program, error corrections and building projects out side of class. I also understand it is difficult, but it would be helpful. To some how create a swipe box where their kits are sorted and available outside of class time. Using the student?s id to access to the lego kit which they are using.
  • 24. Caution
    • Truth in advertising:
      • Colleague included robotics in a course on computer organization and had some problems
    • Sometimes teamwork does not go well
      • May need
        • to define procedure for firing a team member!
        • to defend giving all members the same grade OR specifying a way to allocate credit.
  • 25. HELP!
    • Use NXT-G (iconic language) or something else
    • Google Sketchup: stay with basic ‘get to know you’ exercise or less or more
    • Required posting on Blackboard or less or more and/or required participation in nxtasy forums
    • How to improve participation by females or is it okay (4/15, slightly ahead of percentage in math/cs and new media! Sigh… )
    • Raise standards: is just trying enough?
    • What to do with graduates of k-12 programs?
  • 26. Thank you
    • Email [email_address]
    • Visit: newmedia.purchase.edu /~Jeanine
    • Fall courses include
      • Programming Games, an introduction to programming course and
      • Communicating Quantitative Information, a general education course based on mathematics in news stories