Integrating Introduction to Engineering Lectures with a Robotics Lab

Integrating Introduction to Engineering Lectures with a Robotics Lab

S. Gross, J. Schlosser, D. Schneider (2014).  Integrating Introduction to Engineering Lectures with a Robotics Lab. 10.

We describe the building blocks of an integrated Introduction to Engineering course concept consisting of traditional lectures and a robotics lab class at RWTH Aachen University (CDIO member institution). We highlight requirements, tools, and essential details. Furthermore, we establish links to the CDIO syllabus to increase the reader’s understanding of the educational design.

The traditional focus of electrical engineering freshman education at RWTH Aachen University was a solid base of underlying sciences combined with fundamentals of electrical components and circuits.

The new undergraduate (bachelor) course system introduced a modernized education design in 2007 to help students develop professional skills very early in their first year. They acquire a set of methods and tools that help them understand advanced engineering knowledge faster. These are crucial for many engineering tasks they will face throughout their undergraduate studies and their future academic as well as professional careers.

In addition to the knowledge the students gain about the engineering process, they also get the motivation that even the content of their first and most basic undergraduate classes is useful in solving engineering problems. Furthermore, they also experience team work and professional communication.

The new first year lecture ‘Mathematical Methods for Electrical Engineering’ offers an introduction to signal processing and highlights commonly used mathematical approaches to solve engineering problems. MATLAB examples and assignments present and explore these topics throughout the lectures and exercises. In preparation, one of the first lectures in the semester focusses on a short introduction to MATLAB as a programming language.

Furthermore, the compact eight-day ‘MATLAB meets LEGO Mindstorms’ lab class that takes place two months into the first year. It lets students put their fresh knowledge to practical use as they apply the RWTH - Mindstorms NXT Toolbox for MATLAB and design robots with LEGO Mindstorms NXT boards. Small student teams of two tackle several predefined tasks in which they discover LEGO hardware and communication protocols for USB and Bluetooth. The assignments revisit the theoretical foundations of signal processing, the mathematical methods, and the MATLAB programming basics presented in the lectures.

The Students spend the final four days of the lab course inventing a creative robot project. Combined teams of four apply their knowledge of the LEGO Mindstorms NXT hardware and sensors while going through an entire engineering process for their products.

They conceive a project idea and imagine a solution. Then, they make a multi-disciplinary design of combined LEGO assembly and software solution to meet the requirements of their project. In the next step, they implement it using the LEGO hardware as well as the MATLAB toolbox and test it to verify its functionality. The teams prepare a final talk to fellow students and teachers alike where they present their conceived project idea, the design and implementation and show their robot in live operation.

Proceedings of the 10th International CDIO Conference, Barcelona, Spain, June 15-19 2014

Authors (New): 
Sebastian Gross
Joachim Schlosser
Dorian Schneider
MathWorks GmbH, Germany
RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
Introduction to Engineering
robotics class
Integrated curriculum
LEGO Mindstorms NXT
CDIO Standard 2
CDIO Standard 3
CDIO standard 4
CDIO Standard 5
CDIO Standard 6
CDIO Standard 8
CDIO Standard 10
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