Mechatronics for the Masses: A Hands-on Project for a Large, Introductory Design Class

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The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota has a new 'Introduction to Engineering' course with a hands-on approach to learning beginning engineering skills. Students undertake a series of design and dissection projects as a means for learning. The major project is a six-week assignment to 'design and build an autonomous machine that does something interesting for 45 seconds'. The machines are computer-controlled and require a combination of mechanics, electronics and software, the triad that comprises mechatronics. Resources, including extensive web-based tutorial information and take-home tool kits, were developed to allow students to design and fabricate their robots at home. Just-in-time lectures provide sufficient electronics and programming information to enable students to build robots to an appropriate level of sophistication. Each of the 200 students builds their own robot. During the six years the course has been offered, we have learned many lessons that make this mechatronics design project possible and a successful learning experience for students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-596
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 8 2003

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