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Title: Practical Skills for Students in Mechatronics and Robotics Education
In September 2019, the fourth and final workshop on the Future of Mechatronics and Robotics Education (FoMRE) was held at a Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI. This workshop was organized by faculty at several universities with financial support from industry partners and the National Science Foundation. The purpose of the workshops was to create a cohesive effort among mechatronics and robotics courses, minors and degree programs. Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering (MRE) is an integration of mechanics, controls, electronics, and software, which provides a unique opportunity for engineering students to function on multidisciplinary teams. Due to its multidisciplinary nature, it attracts diverse and innovative students, and graduates better-prepared professional engineers. In this fast growing field, there is a great need to standardize educational material and make MRE education more widely available and easier to adopt. This can only be accomplished if the community comes together to speak with one clear voice about not only the benefits, but also the best ways to teach it. These efforts would also aid in establishing more of these degree programs and integrating minors or majors into existing computer science, mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering departments. The final workshop was attended by approximately 50 practitioners from industry and academia. Participants more » identified many practical skills required for students to succeed in an MRE curriculum and as practicing engineers after graduation. These skills were then organized into the following categories: professional, independent learning, controller design, numerical simulation and analysis, electronics, software development, and system design. For example, professional skills include technical reports, presentations, and documentation. Independent learning includes reading data sheets, performing internet searches, doing a literature review, and having a maker mindset. Numerical simulation skills include understanding data, presenting data graphically, solving and simulating in software such as MATLAB, Simulink and Excel. Controller design involves selecting a controller, tuning a controller, designing to meet specifications, and understanding when the results are good enough. Electronics skills include selecting sensors, interfacing sensors, interfacing actuators, creating printed circuit boards, wiring on a breadboard, soldering, installing drivers, using integrated circuits, and using microcontrollers. Software development of embedded systems includes agile program design, state machines, analyzing and evaluating code results, commenting code, troubleshooting, debugging, AI and machine learning. Finally, system design includes prototyping, creating CAD models, design for manufacturing, breaking a system down into subsystems, integrating and interfacing subcomponents, having a multidisciplinary perspective, robustness, evaluating tradeoffs, testing, validation, and verification, failure, effect, and mode analysis. A survey was prepared and sent out to the participants from all four workshops as well as other robotics faculty, researchers and industry personnel in order to elicit a broader community response. Because one of the biggest challenges in mechatronics and robotics education is the absence of standardized curricula, textbooks, platforms, syllabi, assignments, and learning outcomes, this was a vital part of the process to achieve some level of consensus. This paper presents an introduction to MRE education, related work on existing programs, methods, results of the practical skills survey, and then draws conclusions based upon these results. It aims to create the foundation for standardizing the development of student skills in mechatronics and robotics curricula across institutions, disciplines, majors and minors. The survey was completed by 94 participants and it was clear that there is a consensus that the primary skills students should have upon completion of MRE courses or a program is a broader multidisciplinary systems-level perspective, an ability to problem solve, and an ability to design a system to meet specifications. « less
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ASEE annual conference exposition proceedings
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National Science Foundation
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