Using Robotics to Teach Computer Programming and AI Concepts to Engineering Students

David P. Miller

Many ABET approved engineering programs contain but a single credit hour of "programming" classes. In many situations, that programming class does not even include a general purpose programming language but instead concentrates on MathCAD or even Excel. In the opinions expressed by many of these engineering students, programming is considered hard and unnatural. Over the past few years we have introduced robotic projects into the introductory engineering classes and into several of the engineering lab classes (measurements, controls, etc.). The robots being designed and built are centered around KISS Institute for Practical Robotics’ Botball robot kit. The robots are programmed in IC4 an interactive environment that uses a subset of the C programming language. This paper will present some of the curriculum material and projects that are used in these classes as well as an informal analysis of the impact this methodology has had on the students. In addition, we will discuss how the Collegiate Botball contest is being used to keep these students programming once they are done with their required hour of programming class.

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