An Introduction To Mechatronics Experiment: Lego .

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AC 2007-2026: AN INTRODUCTION TO MECHATRONICS EXPERIMENT: LEGOMINDSTORMS NEXT URBAN CHALLENGENebojsa Jaksic, Colorado State University-PuebloNebojsa I. Jaksic received the Dipl. Ing. degree in electrical engineering from BelgradeUniversity in 1984, the M.S. in electrical engineering, M.S. in industrial engineering, and Ph.D. inindustrial engineering from The Ohio State University in 1988, 1992, and 2000, respectively.From 1992 to 2000 he was with DeVry University in Columbus, OH. In 2000, he joined ColoradoState University-Pueblo, where he is currently an Associate Professor. Dr. Jaksic's interestsinclude mechatronics and nanotechnology education and research. He is a member of IEEE, IIE,SME, MRS and ASEE.Dawn Spencer, Colorado State University-PuebloDawn E. Spencer received B.S. and M.S. degrees in computer science from The Ohio StateUniversity's School of Engineering in 1990 and 1992 respectively.After working as an independent contractor for many years for companies ranging in size fromfamily businesses to IBM, Dawn accepted a position at Colorado State University – Pueblo in2000, where she is currently an Assistant Professor in the CIS department of the Hasan School ofBusiness. She is a member of ISSA and ASEE.Page 12.229.1 American Society for Engineering Education, 2007

An Introduction to Mechatronics Experiment:LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban ChallengeAbstractThis work describes a laboratory experiment designed for an introductory mechatronics course toemploy discovery-based learning. Two robotic vehicles are constructed using new LEGOMindstorms NXT sets. One of the two moving robots is equipped with sensors and programmedto follow the prescribed path on an enlarged city map. The other robot has no sensors and isprogrammed to follow the first robot. Programming of the robots is accomplished using theNational Instruments LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO Mindstorms NXT and the Mindstorms NXTsoftware. The inter-robot communication necessary for robot following uses Bluetooth wirelesstechnology. This experiment mimics some segments of the Defense Advanced Research ProjectAgency’s (DARPA) Urban Challenge – a 2007, 2,000,000 prize autonomous vehicle challengeto complete 60 miles in traffic in less than six hours.IntroductionLEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge is a six-hour engineering design experimentimplemented as a part of an introductory mechatronics course. Its major function is to promotediscovery-based active learning and knowledge systematization. Robot building is a powerfulstudent motivational tool1. Mimicking an actual multimillion-dollar robotic prize competition2further enhances student motivation. A set of new tools like LEGO Mindstorms Education BaseSet with NXT technology (became available in August 2006) and the National InstrumentsLabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO Mindstorms NXT (became available for downloads in midDecember 2006) are implemented in this novel engineering design experiment. Bluetoothtechnology is used for robot-to-robot communication and control.Previous Work and JustificationThe LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge experiment is a part of the pedagogical systemimplemented in the Introduction to Mechatronics course and the Mechatronics curriculum. Thispedagogical system is based on McCarthy’s3 version of the Kolb4 learning cycle and wasmotivated in part by work presented by Harb et al5. According to Kolb and McCarthy one canlearn new concepts by following a pattern (the learning cycle) exemplified by the questions why,what, how, and what if. A set of activities is associated with each part of the learning cycle.Active discovery-based learning is considered an important part of this learning cycle, especiallyin engineering6. Bruner7 defines discovery learning as a cognitive instructional model wherebystudents are empowered and encouraged to learn concepts and principles through activehypothesis testing and discovery. “The student will have to explore examples and from them'discover' the principles or concepts which are to be learned7.”Page 12.229.2Engineering laboratory courses use active learning. Depending on the course objectives, thelaboratory experiments are either of a cookbook type where students follow a set of instructionsand all produce similar results, an organized project type where the instructions are not precise

and allow for some creativity, an open-ended project type where the course instructor has areasonable knowledge of the final outcome, or research where neither the students nor theinstructor know the final outcome of the experiments. Often, open-ended projects are used aspowerful pedagogical tools for discovery-based learning. To minimize the time to buildprototypes and to minimize the cost of such projects by using low-cost plastic parts andenforcing reusability of parts, many instructors adopted LEGO bricks and LEGO computerizedsystems as educational tools. There are hundreds of papers describing the use of LEGO bricks inengineering research8. Many papers use LEGO Mindstorms RCX with the Robolabprogramming environment (RIS 2.0) based on National Instruments LabVIEW software forvarious projects and courses like robot competitions9, 10, programming11, 12, and project-basedlearning13-19. The literature reviewed shows positive results like increased student enthusiasmtowards engineering, perceptual and actual increase in students’ knowledge, and development ofdesign and team skills. However, some evaluators of LEGO Mindstorms RCX found it to berestrictive for more advanced projects in both hardware and software. A number of third-partysolutions were proposed to increase its flexibility12, 20.LEGO’s response to a need for an improved microcontroller system is addressed in their newLEGO Mindstorms NXT product. LEGO Mindstorms RCX is already over eight years old(introduced in 1998) and LEGO stopped its production and any further developments in favor ofits new product, LEGO Mindstorms NXT. Furthermore, there is no hardware or softwarecompatibility between the two systems. The only exception is with the old sensors, which can beconnected to the new system with conversion cables and programmed using downloadablesoftware modules. Even though the support for the old system will continue and the warehouseshave a number of the old systems left, LEGO urges new users to buy NXT sets. While the ideasfrom literature using old LEGO Mindstorms RCX sets will still be valid, the implementations arequickly becoming dated. Since a recent literature search did not reveal any education researcharticles implementing the new LEGO Mindstorms NXT with its improved hardware andsoftware capabilities, this report will note some of the new, interesting, and possibly usefulfeatures.Curriculum Context of LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge ExperimentIntroduction to Mechatronics is a two-hour lecture two-hour laboratory one-semester juniorstanding course available within the recently offered Bachelor of Science in Engineering withspecialization in Mechatronics (BSE-Mechatronics) program at Colorado State University Pueblo. The LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge experiment is implemented within thiscourse. The lecture portion of the course deals with the basic elements of a mechatronic systemlike actuators, sensors, data acquisition subsystems and various controllers with their underlyingprinciples as well as mechatronic systems case studies.Page 12.229.3During laboratory sessions, students use the National Instruments (NI) LabVIEW programmingenvironment and NI ELVIS prototyping boards to verify characteristics of a few chosenactuators and sensors and interface these devices to a PC-controlled data acquisition and controlsubsystem. In addition, through a set of three lab sessions, students become proficient withprogramming Microchip’s PIC16 microcontrollers for embedded applications.

To add an encompassing system’s view to the course, facilitate discovery-based learning andpromote further development of graphical programming skills, a three session project, LEGOMindstorms NXT Urban Challenge, is designed and implemented. Some of the specificdiscovery-based learning objectives for this project are to increase the practical knowledge ofbasic robot controls and inter-robotic communications.Since this is the last experiment in the course, students are already familiar with graphicalprogramming concepts through LabVIEW and microcontrollers. Additionally, in their first yearIntroduction to Engineering course, they were exposed to an older LEGO Mindstorms RCXenvironment allowing them to transfer some of the experience to the new system. Experimentgrading is based on fulfilling two basic criteria (line following and robot following) and onfulfilling some additional criteria from the actual DARPA Urban Challenge announcement2.Laboratory Assignment and Hardware SpecificationsThis laboratory experiment is designed to further develop student engineering design andgraphical programming skills, and to specifically provide a practical experience with basicrobotic controls and inter-robotic communications. The inspiration for the experiment comesfrom DARPA’s Urban Challenge and from the Bluetooth wireless communication capability ofthe new LEGO programmable bricks. The experiment requires two LEGO Mindstorms NXTsets.Laboratory TaskTwo mobile robots are to be constructed, one with sensory inputs (master) and the other without(slave). The master should include at least two sensors: one light sensor for line following andone ultrasonic sensor for sensing any obstacles (park toy cars) on the road. A large map of thearea with START and FINISH positions as well as the desired path will be provided. The tworobots are to operate as follows:1. After placing the robots at the START position one behind the other, both robots shouldbe turned on, Bluetooth communication should be turned on and initialized, andappropriate programs executed.2. Then, the master robot should follow the prescribed path (line following). The choice of atype and a number of sensors is open.3. The slave robot should follow the master robot by receiving commands from the masterrobot.4. When they reach the FINISH position, both robots will execute a parking maneuverresulting in the robots being parked one behind the other.Hardware and software designs are not further specified. Students are allowed to use existingdesigns and modify them to satisfy the project requirements.LEGO Mindstorms NXT SpecificationsPage 12.229.4At 250, LEGO Mindstorms NXT includes one NXT Intelligent Brick with four input ports andthree output ports, four sensors (a light sensor, a touch sensor, a sound sensor, and an ultrasonic

sensor), three servo motors, and various connecting elements. Each servo motor has a built-inrotation sensor that measures speed and distance thus allowing precise motor control within onedegree of accuracy. NXT Intelligent Brick includes two microcontrollers: one 32-bit ARM7microcontroller with 4 KB FLASH and 64 KB RAM, and one 8-bit AVR microcontroller with 4KB FLASH and 512 B RAM. Apart from a major change in microcontroller hardware, whencompared to the previous LEGO Mindstorms RIS 2.0 version, NXT has more memory, isBluetooth enabled, has an additional input port, has an 8-bit 12-16 KHz sample rate soundchannel with external speaker, and is MAC compatible. USB 2.0 port allows fast programtransfer. A quick-start program can get students started three times faster then with RIS 2.0.LEGO Mindstorms NXT is not compatible with any older versions of LEGO Mindstorms.Robot programming can be accomplished using LEGO Mindstorms NXT software. For morecomplicated tasks and added functionality National Instruments LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGOMindstorms NXT21 can be used to create and import modules into NXT programs.ResultsHardware implementation is relatively simple. Both robots are built following the quick-startguide supplied with the LEGO Mindstorms NXT set. The master robot is then equipped with twosensors, an ultrasound sensor pointing straight forward and a light sensor pointing down.Photographs of the master and slave robot configurations as used in the project are shown infigures 1 and 2. There is a set of articles22-24 describing other simple configurations. However,they are not used since the LEGO’s in-the-box solution is sufficient and available.Figure 1. Master robot configurationFigure 2. Slave robot configurationA map of the area around campus with a desired path is downloaded from the Web25, enlarged,printed on 12 sheets (8 ½ x 11 inch), and taped together. Figure 3 depicts the robots on the pathon the map.Page 12.229.5

Figure 3. Robots following the path on the mapThe line-following software was modified from a Web source25. The robot-following set ofprograms (one for each robot) utilized an array block (customized LabVIEW NXT block)adopted from Hassenplug26.When started, the master robot sweeps left and right in widening arcs until the line is located bya single light sensor. Then it moves forward until the line is lost. At this time the search beginsagain. After traveling a great enough distance (approximately two wheel revolutions) directionsare transmitted via Bluetooth to the slave robot to bring it to the close proximity of the master. Ifa line is not found within a ninety-degree arc during the line-search period, the end of the line(FINISH) is assumed. Then, the master robot moves forward another two wheel revolutions toallow the slave robot to move right behind it. The motion of the master robot is interrupted if theultrasound sensor encounters an obstacle. The master robot program consists of the mainprogram, nine My Blocks, and the array object and it is not shown due to its complexity. Thesimple slave robot program is shown in Figure 4.Figure 4. Slave robot programPage 12.229.6

Lessons LearnedRobotics projects are an effective educational tool for discovery-based learning. Studentsatisfaction is high at the end. However, the six laboratory hours dedicated for the LEGOMindstorms NXT Urban Challenge project are not adequate. Considerable amount ofunscheduled laboratory time is needed to complete the project. It was found that while easy touse for simple tasks, the LEGO Mindstorms NXT software is somewhat cumbersome for morecomplicated programs.ConclusionsIn this paper, a mechatronics laboratory design project implementing a new hardware/softwareenvironment (the LEGO Mindstorms NXT) is presented. The project combines a traditionalrobotic line-following task, an obstacle detection task and a robot-following task. The robotfollowing task includes two mobile robots following each other. The communication betweenrobots is established using the Bluetooth wireless technology. Discovery-based learningobjectives dealing with robot controls and inter-robot communications are satisfied. Studentcomments are positive, and the project setup is cost-effective (about 500 per 4.Page 12.229.715.Pomalaza-Raez, C., and Groff, B. H., “Retention 101: Where Robots Go Students Follow,” Journal ofEngineering Education, vol. 92, No. 1, January 2003, .asp, accessed 16 January 2007.McCarthy, B., The 4MAT System: Teaching to Learning Styles With Right/Left Mode Techniques: EXCEL, Inc.,1987.Kolb, D. A., Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Prentice Hall,1984.Harb, J. N., Durant, S. O., and Terry, R. E., “Use of the Kolb learning cycle and the 4MAT system inengineering education,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 82, No. 2, April 1993, pp. 70-77.Hotaling, L., Sheryll, R., and Stolking, R., “Discovery based learning in the engineering classroom usingunderwater robotics,” Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Session 2006-78, 2006.Bruner, J., Toward a Theory of Instruction, Harvard University Press, 1966.Wang, E., LaCombe, J., and Rogers, C., “Using LEGO Bricks to Conduct Engineering Experiments,”Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Session 2756, 2004.Chung, C. J. and Anneberg, L., “Robotics contests and computer science and engineering education,”Proceedings of the 33rd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Session F1F, Boulder, CO, November2003.Verner, I. M., and Ahlgren, D. J., “Fire-Fighting Robot contest: Interdisciplinary Design Curricula in Collegeand High School,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 91, No. 3, July 2002, pp. 255-359.Flikkema, P., “Learning Embedded and Real-time systems via low-cost mobile robots,” Proceedings of theASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Session 1332, 2001.Klassner, F. and Andrson, S. D., “LEGO MindStorms: Not Just for K-12 Anymore,” IEEE Robotics andAutomation Magazine, vol. 10, No. 2, June 2003, pp. 12-18.Goff, M., and Vernon, M., “Using LEGO RCX bricks as the platform for interdisciplinary design projects,”Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Session 3425, 2001.Shih, A. and Hudspeth, M., “Using the LEGO robotics kit as a teaching tool in a project-based freshmencourse,” Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Session 1353, 2001.Gage, A. and Murphy, R., “Principles and experiences using LEGOs to teach behavioral robotics,” Proceedingsof the 33rd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Session F4E, Boulder, CO, November 2003.

16. Self, B. P., Wood, J. J., and Hansen, D., “Teaching Undergraduate Kinetics using LEGO Mindstorms Race CarCompetition,” Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Session 3668, 2004.17. Bishop, B. E., “Teaching Robot Design: Locomotion Beyond Differential Drive,” Proceedings of the ASEEAnnual Conference and Exposition, 2005.18. Bishop, B., Wick, C., and Piper, G., “Teaching Robot Design: Student-Driven, Open-Ended Design Projects,”Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Session 2006-1905, 2006.19. Froyd, J., Li, X., Srinivasa, A., Bassichis, W., Hodge, J., and Maxwell, D., “How Do Students in a ProjectBased First-Year Engineering Curriculum Perform in a Sophomore Engineering Mechanics Course?,”Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Session 2006-1117, 2006.20. Greenwald, L. and Kopena, J., “Mobile Robot Labs,” IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, vol. 10, No. 2,June 2003, pp. 25-32.21. http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/tut/p/id/4435, accessed on 17 January 2007.22. Isom, J., “Lessons from the Laboratory with Brian Davis: NXT Robotics: Introduction” Servo Magazine,August 2006, pp. 14-16.23. Isom, J., “Lessons from the Laboratory with Brian Davis: NXT Robotics: First Build” Servo Magazine, October2006, pp. 18-20.24. Isom, J., “Lessons from the Laboratory with Brian Davis: NXT Robotics: Remote Control ” Servo Magazine,December2006, pp. 14-16.25. http://home.earthlink.net/ xaos69/NXT, accessed on 15 January 2007.26. http://www.teamhassenplug.org/NXT, accessed on 15 January 2007.Page 12.229.8

LEGO s response to a need for an improved microcontroller system is addressed in t heir new LEGO Mindstorms NXT product. LEGO Mindstorms RCX is already over eight y ears old (introduced in 1998) and LEGO stopped its production and any further developments in favor

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