About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 5887-5898
Publication year: 2009
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain

USING LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT ROBOTS FOR CONTROL SYSTEMS COURSES IN UNDERGRADUATE ENGINEERING PROGRAMS

A. Cruz Martín, J.A. Fernández Madrigal

Málaga University, Systems Engineering and Automation Department (SPAIN)
Control systems teaching at undergraduate engineering academic programs needs, in order to allow the students to understand how these systems work, a practical focus that complements the theoretical aspects. Such practice should encourage to apply that knowledge to real world situations and to analyze the obtained results, which must be a very important competence for their professional careers. However, building a set of practical exercises based on physical systems is not always an easy task, since they must lay in some educational platform that must stand a wide set of requirements. From a logistics point of view, such platform should be easy to use, cheap, and robust enough to bear an intensive use by non expert users; from an educational point of view, it should favor that the students fill the gap between control systems theory and control systems real world problems and it also should be appealing for the students in order to enhance their motivation; furthermore, the platform must be flexible in order to allow a variety of different practical exercises that cover as much as possible the theoretical aspects of these courses.

We present in this work the preliminary results of an Educational Innovation Project that we are currently developing at Málaga University (Spain). This project focuses on the use of the well-known LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robotic platform for teaching LTI control systems theory at different undergraduate levels of Computer Science and Telecomunnication engineering programs. We have designed a set of control systems practical exercises that can be easily developed in the NXC programming language (a free subset of C including an API for managing the LEGO NXT), without changing the firmware or the physical configuration of the robot, and using a free multi-platform IDE. Along with these exercises, we have also compiled a variety of internet resources to consult, and both exercises and resources are available for the students via the Moodle-based virtual campus at the Málaga University. We have tested these practices in a voluntary workshop and in an ordinary one-semester course, getting an enthusiastic response from the students -that we have measured via different anonymous evaluation questionnaires-, as well as good academic results; besides, we have also worked on how this kind of practical approach may be combined with collaborative work activities, like wikis or other collaborative work, available too in the Moodle platform through some of its web components. Finally, we are currently developing a common repository of practices, in order to reuse them among the teachers involved in this educational innovation project.

With this foundational work during the past 2008-2009 academic year, in the following 2009-2010 period we plan to extend the application of this practices to more subjects, to improve and look for new collaborative work techniques, and to increase if possible the number or practical exercises. This includes to extend the use of LEGO NXT to control systems courses with a large number of students.
@InProceedings{CRUZMARTIN2009USI,
author = {Cruz Mart{\'{i}}n, A. and Fern{\'{a}}ndez Madrigal, J.A.},
title = {USING LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT ROBOTS FOR CONTROL SYSTEMS COURSES IN UNDERGRADUATE ENGINEERING PROGRAMS},
series = {2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2009 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-613-2953-3},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {16-18 November, 2009},
year = {2009},
pages = {5887-5898}}
TY - CONF
AU - A. Cruz Martín AU - J.A. Fernández Madrigal
TI - USING LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT ROBOTS FOR CONTROL SYSTEMS COURSES IN UNDERGRADUATE ENGINEERING PROGRAMS
SN - 978-84-613-2953-3/2340-1095
PY - 2009
Y1 - 16-18 November, 2009
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2009 Proceedings
SP - 5887
EP - 5898
ER -
A. Cruz Martín, J.A. Fernández Madrigal (2009) USING LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT ROBOTS FOR CONTROL SYSTEMS COURSES IN UNDERGRADUATE ENGINEERING PROGRAMS, ICERI2009 Proceedings, pp. 5887-5898.
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