In revitalized robotics course, learning is far from automated

The classroom was abuzz with activity as small groups of students huddled around their robots. The robots, which resembled small, motorized chariots, jolted to life and began driving various routes across the floor of the spacious, newly remodeled classroom in the Wendt Building.

“Because the students have spent some problem-solving effort on these things before finally raising their hand and asking for help, they realize the importance of these solutions and gain a deeper understanding than if I just told them a problem and then gave them the answer,” says Assistant Professor Peter Adamczyk, an EI Small Grant recipients.

This kind of active, hands-on learning is precisely what Adamczyk had in mind when, soon after joining the faculty, he began a significant undertaking in 2016 to completely reinvent the Introduction to Robotics course with support from an EI Small Grant.

Noting that robotics is fundamentally about “doing,” Adamczyk structured the course to focus largely on practical aspects of robotics and hands-on activities. He teaches the class for seniors and graduate students in a blended learning format: Students watch video lectures, complete and submit homework, and take quizzes, all online; while in class, they work in teams and use modern, low-cost hardware and open-source software to build and interact with robotic systems during almost every class period.

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