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Robots and Teaching

During their university studies, as well as learning a great deal of specific knowledge, students must also develop their social capacity, professional behavior, and innovation skills. In addition, the rapid development of new knowledge in computer science and electromechanical engineering makes it challenging effectively to integrate new material into the var- ious courses. Therefore, the development of activities that offer an opportunity of combining different branches of knowledge, and that both inspire and value students' initiative and imagi- nation, is a significant contribution to university education. Robotic competitions, where students have to design, build, and test a robot to compete against other machines, are wide- spread around the world. They provide many benefits in terms of both learning and increasing motivation toward engineering. Students have to deal with real-world problems, building a device that must fulfill specifications given by the contest rules. They must tackle the different stages of engineering (analysis of requirements, design, verification, and redesign) while constrained by budget and time limita- tions. Moreover, they have to integrate interdisciplinary skills from mechanics, electronics, and computer science and learn how to work in teams.

Cybertech Competition

Cybertech is a robotic competition organized yearly by the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in which undergraduate students design and build mobile robots that can compete in different events. Students from UPM can follow a related course in which they learn how to build a robot. Marks obtained in the course depend partially on the results obtained in the competition. The characteristic event of the competition is the bullfighting in which each team must build a bullfighter robot that shows its skills against a bull robot provided by the organization.

I took part in the organizations and lecturing of Cybertech 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2008 Cybertech had an international parallel competition and course. The course was self-contained and students with basic knowledge on computer science, electronics and/or mechanics built and programmed a mobile robot using a commercial kit. The course finished with a small competition between the different teams, consisting of a simplified version of the Bullfighting event. Forty students from twenty different European countries participated in the course. I was coordinator and professor of this international part of the competition.

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Related Articles

M. Hernando, R. Galan, I. Navarro and D. Rodríguez-Losada, Ten years of Cybertech: The Educational Benefits of Bullfighting Robotics, IEEE Transactions on Education, Volume: 54 Issue:4, Pages 569-575, November 2011, ISSN: 0018-9359, DOI: 10.1109/TE.2010.2095014. [pdf]

I. Navarro and R. Galán, Cybertech Robotic Competition, in EUROBOT 2008, Communications in Computer and Information Science, A. Gottscheber and S. Enderle, Eds. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag, 2009, vol 33, pp. 134-144. ISSN: 1865-0929. [pdf]

PI, PI2, TC-EPI and TC-EPI2 Educational Projects

The TC-EPI project was born in 2002 to provide a robust and powerful platform to develop projects related to mobile robotics and microcontrollers. The project consists of designing and building a general purpose robot composed of: TC-EPI control board, mechanical structure, sensors and software libraries. Working with a uniform platform simplifies the time needed to develop software due to the use of libraries previously written, and the development of hardware, only peripherials and sensor boards have to be designed. This reduction in development time makes people focus on solving high level problems such as communication, cooperation, difficult robotic tasks. This project was developed by undergraduate students taking into account the needs and posibilities of students when facing this kind of designs. To achieve this, the project fits the open hardware philosophy, similar to the open software one.

As a continuation of TC-EPI (PI) project, PI2 platform pretends to provide a robust and powerful platform to develop projects related to mobile robotics, especially in the educational field. The use of traditional robotic kits or home made robots has the problem of spending a lot of time trying to put all the pieces together, learning the hardware and finally programming the robot, not allowing the students to concentrate in robotics. Closed robotic platforms that could let student to focus on robotics do not allow modifying and understanding the hardware and software details. PI2 robot solves these problems giving a scalable and modular platform easy to build and program. The robot, which can be mounted in few hours, is composed of: TC-EPI2 control board, mechanical structure, sensors and software libraries. PI2 has been used in several university workshops successfully. The robot is currently used in different research and student laboratories of Spanish universities.

When undergraduate and first year of Ph.D student I participated in the development of both projects. More information and sources on these projects can be found at RBZ Robot Design home page, a company founded by some of the group members of PI and PI2 projects.

Related Articles

A. Gutiérrez, I. Navarro, D. Amor, J. M. Castro and J. Donate, PI2: A new Initiative in Educational Mobile Robotics, in Proceedings of Eurobot Workshop on Educational Robotics, Catania, Italy, 2006. [pdf]

D.Amor, J. M. Castro, J. Donate, A. Gutiérrez, M. Lerena and I. Navarro, PI y TC-EPI: Una Nueva Iniciativa de Hardware Abierto Orientado a la Formación en Robótica Móvil, in Proceedings of TELEC02 International Conference, Santiago de Cuba, July,2002. [pdf-(spanish)]