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Title: Promoting Open-source Hardware and Software Platforms in Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering Education
The evolution of Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering (MRE) has enabled numerous technological advancements since the early 20th century. Professionals in this field are reshaping the world by designing smart and autonomous systems aiming to improve human well-being. Recognizing the need for preparing highly-educated MRE professionals, many universities and colleges are adopting MRE as a distinct degree program. One of the cornerstones of MRE education is laboratory- and project-based learning to provide a hands-on and engaging experience for the students. To this end, numerous software and hardware platforms have been developed and utilized in MRE courses and laboratories. Commercial products can provide a rich hands-on experience for the students, but they can be cost-prohibitive. On the other hand, open-source platforms are low-cost alternatives to their commercial counterparts and are being increasingly used in industry. Developing open-source laboratory platforms will be a more feasible option for a wider range of institutions and would enable familiarizing the students with recent technological trends in industry and exposing them to the development details of a real-world system. However, adoption of open-source platforms in MRE courses can be lengthy and time consuming. Educators who wish to utilize such systems typically lack the expertise in all aspects more » of their implementation which can make them difficult to troubleshoot. Debugging open-source systems can also be challenging because most of the troubleshooting is done through forum discussions which appear to be very noisy and unfocused. The flip side of this chaotic nature of the open-source world is that there is a vast amount of information available, including tutorials, examples, and commentary and, with some focused searching, debugging and usage questions can often get answered. There is also a disconnect between the forum participants, typically computer scientists and hobbyists, and MRE educators and students. Finally, the available resources and documentation for utilizing open-source platforms in MRE education are insufficient and incomprehensive. Therefore, the main goal of this paper is to increase awareness and familiarity with the use of open-source software and hardware packages in MRE education and practice towards accelerating their adoption. To this end, open-source software packages such as Python, GNU Octave, OpenFOAM, Java, Modelica, Gazebo, SPICE, Scilab, and Gnuplot, which have the potential to be useful in the modeling and analysis of MRE systems are introduced. Furthermore, low-cost and powerful open-source hardware packages such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and BeagleBone which can be used as the main processing unit for data acquisition and control implementation in a wide range of MRE systems are reviewed and their limitations and potentials are investigated. This paper provides a valuable resource for MRE students and faculty who would like to utilize open-source hardware and software platforms in their education and research. « less
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ASEE annual conference exposition proceedings
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National Science Foundation
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