Mechatronics involves the design of mechanical devices with moving parts which require electrical components and programming for intelligence.
The class will start with Ready Rovers (RRs) that—through Arduino microprocessors--control the speed and direction of two stepping motors connected to planetary gears and then, by chain sprockets, to two wheels. A third contact with the floor is made by a ball transport at the back of each rover, allowing for “tank steering.”
Students will organize themselves into teams of 3, to account for the three aspects of mechatronics: mechanical, electrical and programming.
The team programmer will learn how to modify C-like default code for improved performance, initially using a RR. The programmer can use their “natural intelligence” to optimize the rover’s abilities.
The programmer’s teammates will, during the same time, build a custom rover that has more power, better wheels, better bumper, higher voltage power supply, and any other reasonable features the mechanic or electrician can think of. The mechanic will build a frame, a drive train, front and rear bumpers for sensors, and an electrical socket on a pedestal for hosting the Arduino card.
The team electrician will be concerned with the battery power supply and its recharging, and wiring up motor drivers, light and wall sensors, and the 300mA LED back light.
In the last half hour of each class day all teams will enter a Last Rover Roving contest. “Vulnerability switches” on the back of each rover will be beneath a “superbright” LED that can be sensed by phototransistors on the front of opponent rovers. The winning rover will be the last one with its V switch still in the ON position.
Mecha Design will have features not seen in high school robotics teams:
* precisely controllable stepping motors
* C programming of Arduino
* Emphasis on “autonomous mode”
* Use of XBee wireless remote control
* A game all robots can participate in at once
Teams will invariably spend considerable time troubleshooting problems. Teams that do best will learn to communicate, cooperate, compromise, collaborate, and resolve conflicts (the 5 Cs). The 6th C - Cleanup up at the end of each day - will also turn out to be important. The 7th C - Competing - should be done with humility by winners and grace by losers.
Click here to download a detailed syllabus
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