Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

A Systematic Approach to Robotics Instruction

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

A Systematic Approach to Robotics Instruction

Article excerpt

The word "robot" first appeared in 1921, in a play entitled "Rossum's Universal Robots," by the Czech writer Karel Capek. Today television, films and science fiction have certainly familiarized us with the word, but real robots are far removed from those Hollywood creates.

In large part, the increased attention being paid to robotics stems from industry's urgent need to reduce direct labor costs. indeed, U.S. manufacturers facing low-wage foreign competition have finally reached a three-pronged predicament-"emigrate, automate or evaporate."

Curriculum Factors

While the development of robots and related peripherals continues to increase at a breakneck pace, education and' industry remain uncertain on what to teach in this discipline.

Robotics is a multi-faceted automation tool. Many pre-existing classes already feed directly into robotics. Such courses include electronics, time-and-motion, automatic identification, hydraulic/pneumatic control, computer science, kinematics and control theory, production/facility planning, computer-aided design and drafting (CADD), and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). A robotics course, however, has to combine major elements from all of these. Since many schools have some components of a robotics curriculum already in place, what is mainly necessary is a clear idea on how to incorporate those pre-existing parts into a new whole. A thorough look at what resources and parts a school already has is certainly a first step, but there are many factors to consider-textbooks and lab manuals, equipment and facilities, personnel, etc. A detailed outline, at the end of this article, offers administrators and department chairpersons a review of the steps involved in creating a robotics curriculum.


Industrial robotics is not about a single machine doing all the work; it's about a series of machines doing discrete tasks sequentially. Assembly lines are thus transformed into a series of work cells, which are defined physical areas in which tasks are done. And the application, rather than the robot itself, is the first step in developing a work cell. Once understood, robotic control then provides the foremost yield.

Many schools' programs put robotics in with courses on automated systems. The rationale is that robots are either subassemblies of electrical mechanical, pneumatic and/or hydraulic power systems to control manipulator action. The very first step in forming a curriculum to train robot technicians, therefore, is to define the ob.

Hull and Lovett found that: "Robotics/automated-systems technicians are technical specialists with broad-based electromechanical skills who are familiar with electronic, mechanical and hydraulic/pneumatic devices. They are usually specialists in computer-aided design (CAD), robotics, computer-numerical control (CNC), or processing equipment and can set up automatic machines which work together as part of a total automated system. in their area of specialization, they can install, set up, troubleshoot, integrate, program, "modify, test, operate and repair systems and components. They are field-service, installation or service technicians. They will work either under the supervision of an engineer, as a member of a team or as a supervisor of other technicians." I

Dr. Ray Asfhal points out computers and robots are products of a technology rather than technologies themselves."2 The advent of the microprocessor spurred both these technologies. Teaching robotics uses applied mathematical concepts. is it the responsibility of the robotics instructor to teach trigonometry, geometry or even calculus'? No.

Students should take at least the first two courses in these mathematical concepts before enrolling in a robotics class. The robotics instructor can then teach how these concepts apply in coordinate transformation, offline programming, tool-path movement and work-cell configuration, including quality assurance and control. …

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