Balanced Integration of Theory and Applications in Teaching Robotics

By Nael Barakat.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Robotics has become part of the curriculum in almost every engineering school. This is mainly because robotics is a topic that culminates different engineering knowledge bases in a medium that fosters innovation and creativity. On the one hand, the educational value provided by robotics makes it an ideal activity for students to integrate technical knowledge and hard skills as well as soft skills and creativity, achieving multiple ABET criteria in one activity. On the other hand, robotics is still an effective best-practice to recruit and engage students at the pre- and early stages of engineering. Therefore, robotics still maintains a prominent spot in engineering education.
Meanwhile, robotics also continues to be a very dynamic topic that is directly influenced by changes in technology, among other factors. In fact, through the history of robotics education, different themes emerged and others disappeared, resulting in a continuous challenge for educators to accommodate these themes in their robotics courses, without compromising engineering basics. One major and continuous challenge facing robotics educators is how to balance theory and applications in robotics courses. Design and analysis of robotic systems is an essential part of robotics engineering education while demand is increasingly shifting towards applications and the implementation of these systems.
This paper is based on the author’s experience in the field of robotics and its applications. It presents a summary of the methods and benefits gained from incorporating robotics in engineering education as well as an analysis of the challenges facing educators of robotics. It also includes a focused discussion on balancing theory and applications in a robotics course. A unique experience in teaching a hands-on focused robotics course is provided as an example of how to handle some of these challenges in teaching robotics. The course outcomes include industrial grade functional robotics systems and confident students ready to take on challenges from applications to R&D in the field of robotics. Lessons learned from the experience are summarized at the end of the paper.

Keywords: Robotics, Robotics Education, Hands-on Education

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp.245-258. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.650MB).

Dr. Nael Barakat

Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI, USA

Nael Barakat, PH.D. P.Eng. is currently an Associate Professor of Engineering and Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Grand Valley State University, MI. He is also a member and chair elect of the ASME Committee on Ethical Standards and Review (CESR). His interest and research work is in the area of Dynamic Systems, Robotics, NEMS, Engineering Ethics, and Engineering education.

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