Learning autonomous systems — An interdisciplinary project-based experience
With the increased influence of automation into every part of our lives, tomorrow’s engineers must be capable working with autonomous systems. The explosion of automation and robotics has created a need for a massive increase in engineers who possess the skills necessary to work with twenty-first century systems. Autonomous Systems (MEEM4707) is a new senior/graduate level elective course with goals of: 1) preparing the next generation of skilled engineers, 2) creating new opportunities for learning and well informed career choices, 3) increasing confidence in career options upon graduation, and 4) connecting academic research to the students world. Presented in this paper is the developed curricula, key concepts of the project-based approach, and resources for other educators to implement a similar course at their institution. In the course, we cover the fundamentals of autonomous robots in a hands-on manner through the use of a low-cost mobile robot. Each student builds and programs their own robot, culminating in operation of their autonomous mobile robot in a miniature city environment. The concepts covered in the course are scalable from middle school through graduate school. Evaluation of student learning is completed using pre/post surveys, student progress in the laboratory environment, and conceptual examinations.