Physical Computing & Robotics

This course is cross-listed in the math and science departments. This is a self-directed course that is project-oriented and driven largely by student interests. Students build their own PRT3 motherboard and learn to use the Arduino Language to program their own Teensy 3.2 microcontroller development board. (The Arduino language is based heavily on the well-known C‑programming language.) It is assumed that students are already comfortable with computer technology but know very little about computer programming. Throughout the year, students create autonomous robotics applications for wheeled, walking and facially-expressive robots manufactured by Patton Robotics, or they can design and build their own robot or embedded controller system.

Programming topics include logical statements, functions, loops, recursion, sensor input, servomotor programming, and actuator control. While students in this class are permitted to use some algorithms found online or authored by other students, they are required to write some algorithms from scratch. Students will be taught how to use computer-aided design (CAD) software to make 2D and 3D models which can then be cut with the 100-watt laser cutter or printed on the many 3D printers in the laboratory. Students are also introduced to electronics, circuit design, soldering, and mechanical engineering concepts and tools. Once the student has shown an understanding of programming basics, CAD design, and electronics, they are on their own to create, build and program one or more robotic applications that will perform some autonomous task, usually incorporating simple feedback control systems. Students will display their projects during the Interactive Robotics Open House, which takes place at the end of the academic year.

Students who are uncomfortable applying science and mathematics to everyday situations may find this course will provide practical and relevant ways to help refine and augment their own knowledge of science and mathematics. Students in this course should challenge themselves to use their hands and imaginations to make robots do something.

This course fulfills the physical science requirement.

Open to: Sophomores, juniors, and seniors