Teaching Robotics in the Lab

This year (course 2014-15), I started a new subject called Robotics Laboratory (Laboratorio de Robótica) which belongs to the degree called Engineering on Electronics, Robotics and Mechatronics. This is an official degree of the Universidad de Málaga, taught at the School of Industrial Engineering.

The course goal is to provide the students with practical competences in robot design and control. This subject is taught among other robotic subjects (some mandatory and some optional) so special care has to be taken when designing the specific contents of this course. This subject is optional in the last semester of the degree, so I had a small and enthusiastic group of student that allowed me to take some risks.

We started building a set of four additional medium-size mobile manipulator platform called PIERO and designed and built a small 4 DoF’s manipulator for each robots.

Teaching Robotics Laboratory

Teaching Robotics Laboratory

As can be seen in the picture, these were among the most student-engaging sessions I ever had. I also had very rewarding classes providing them with this kind of experience and knowledge that you cannot put on a powerpoint.

Probably, the biggest challenge was to embrace the model-based development as the tool for the implementation of the robot control software. In this course we are using Simulink as the main development tool which produces real-time code for the Arduino microcontroller.

Students testing the control of the PIERO platform

Students testing the control of the PIERO platform

This model-based engineering approach applied to the education may have important advantages in therms of efficiency.

They implemented discrete time model of wheel speed control, Cartesian mobile robot control and read-reckoning, mobile robot control and kinematic arm control. Also hybrid models have been developed for reactive navigation tasks

Hybrid models for reactive navigation

Hybrid models for reactive navigation

FSM for collision avoidance behavior

FSM for collision avoidance behavior

Students testing PIERO performing a reactive navigation task

Students testing PIERO performing a reactive navigation task

Finally, a higher level of control has been implemented for vision guided navigation using the PIERO’s on-board Raspberry Pi computer, also developed under Simulink.

The success of this approach was possible with the help of my colleage Antonio Muñoz and my group of students who used it for the first time.

Thank you to all, but this is just the beginning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *