Robotics A Difficult Domain

The robotics Introducing to students for the first time is extremely challenging. This initial stage exposes students to basic engineering concepts, mechanical designs, and introductory programming skills. Because students are pliable at this initial stage, they need to be immersed in a learning environment that addresses all these skills. The Virtual Instructor Learning Environment is one paradigm that has proven to be beneficial to students who are learning robotics for the first time.

There are three distinct skill sets students need to acquire in order to successfully manipulate the robot. They are: robotic design concepts and construction, basic engineering skills, and programming. Successful robotic construction implies that the student is able to not only recognize the LEGO piece but know its functionality as well. Determining which pieces are best assembled together and designing it as such is challenging. In the Spring and Fall of 2006, students were asked to familiarize themselves with the LEGO Mindstorms pieces. This Mindstorms robot kit #9790 consisted of 718 pieces.

Learning the mechanics of each piece and becoming familiar with 718 pieces is challenging for most students. Most students easily recognized the wheels, but had trouble differentiating between the bushings, connectors, bricks, and beams.

Once the students were able to recognize the parts then next step challenge was getting them to understand the functionality of each piece and deciding which parts should be assemble. Students were given 5 robotic construction tasks. The most challenging for them was the light sensor (task #5) and the constructing the first motorized vehicle. The light sensor has to be mounted correctly on the vehicle in order to work successfully and many of the students vehicles were poorly design thus adding the light sensor was challenging. As for Task#1, students had trouble understanding the correlation between the wheel, axle, gear, and motor. Placing these parts together and seeing how they function together to create movement was most challenging for all the students. Clearly reveals that Task #4 gave the students the most difficulty in programming as well as constructing.

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