Workshops for building the mechatronics and robotics engineering education community

Michael A. Gennert, Nima Lotfi, James A. Mynderse, Monique Jethwani, Vikram Kapila

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

Abstract

Intelligent Autonomous Systems, including Intelligent Manufacturing & Automation and Industry 4.0, have immense potential to improve human health, safety, and welfare. Engineering these systems requires an interdisciplinary knowledge of mechanical, electrical, computer, software, and systems engineering throughout the design and development process. Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering (MRE) is emerging as a discipline that can provide the broad inter-disciplinary technical and professional skill sets that are critical to fulfill the research and development needs for these advanced systems. Despite experiencing tremendous, dynamic growth, MRE lacks a settled-on and agreed-upon body-of-knowledge, leading to unmet needs for standardized curricula, courses, laboratory platforms, and accreditation criteria, resulting in missed career opportunities for individuals and missed economic opportunities for industry. There have been many educational efforts around MRE, including courses, minors, and degree programs, but they have not been well integrated or widely adopted, especially in USA. To enable MRE to coalesce as a distinct and identifiable engineering field, the authors conducted four workshops on the Future of Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering (FoMRE) education at the bachelor's degree level. The overall goal of the workshops was to improve the quality of undergraduate MRE education and to ease the adoption of teaching materials to prepare graduates with a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical hands-on skills. To realize this goal, the specific objectives were to generate enthusiasm and a sense of community among current and future MRE educators, promote diversity and inclusivity within the MRE community, identify thought leaders, and seek feedback from the community to serve as a foundation for future activities. The workshops were intended to benefit a wide range of participants including educators currently teaching or developing programs in MRE, PhD students seeking academic careers in MRE, and industry professionals desiring to shape the future workforce. Workshop activities included short presentations on sample MRE programs, breakout sessions on specific topics, and open discussion sessions. As a result of these workshops, the MRE educational community has been enlarged and engaged, with members actively contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning. This paper presents the workshops' formats, outcomes, results of participant surveys, and their analyses. A major outcome was identifying concept, skill, and experience inventories organized around the dimensions of foundational/practical/applications and student preparation/MRE knowledgebase. Particular attention is given to the extent to which the workshops realized the project goals, including attendee demographics, changes in participant attitudes, and development of the MRE community. The paper concludes with a summary of lessons learned and a call for future activities to shape the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1754
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume2020-June
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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