Robotic Explorations with an Introduction to Electrical and Computer Engineering

Douglas Williams
Georgia Institute of Technology
Robert Butera
Georgia Institute of Technology

Our goal in writing this book was to design an entry-level electrical and computer engineering (ECE) course that would give students an engaging, hands-on experience, while also providing a ‘big picture’ perspective of the discipline. Through its use of LEGO® NXT robots as instructional vehicles, the text ensures that students’ first exposure to ECE will be broad-scoped, educational, and fun, yet also challenging. The book provides students with a systems-level design experience at the beginning of their academic programs and introduces them to a broad range of ECE topics. Entry-level students receive the hands-on design experience they relish, which helps retain their attention during the early part of their engineering education.

The LabVIEW™ programming environment is introduced in a way that requires little or no prior programming experience yet also exposes students to professional-grade software tools. As successive chapters introduce the relatively sophisticated NXT controller, motors, and sensors, students learn not just how to use them but also how they work. Each new component allows an introduction to those areas of ECE related to the design and operation of that component. This deeper understanding also allows students to appreciate the abilities and limitations of each component. Additionally, students are able to develop a deeper and broader understanding of the field of electrical and computer engineering at an earlier stage in their studies.

TITLE: Robotic Explorations with an Introduction to Electrical and Computer Engineering

1. Introduction

2. Programming

2.1. General programming concepts and constructs

2.2. Introduction to LabVIEW in terms of the NXT

2.3. Lab: Obstacle avoidance

2.4. Problems

2.5. ECE : Computer Engineering

3. Motors, Gears, and Motion

3.1. Background information

3.1.1. Torque

3.1.2. Power level control (PWM)

3.1.3. Rotational encoders

3.1.4. Simple LEGO gears

3.2. NXT toolbox and motors

3.3. Lab: Basic motor control

3.4. Problems

3.5. ECE Overview: Electrical Energy, Power, and Motors

4. Voltage, Current, and Energy

4.1. Working with current, charge, and voltage

4.2. Batteries and DC power sources

4.3. Simple circuits

4.4. Sensors as transducers

4.5. Lab: Distances and the Ultrasonic Sensor

4.6. Problems

4.7. ECE Overviews: Analog Electronics; Electromagnetics

5. Digital Signals and Data Representation

5.1. What are digital signals?

5.1.1. Working with finite precision (quantization)

5.1.1.1. Binary representations

5.1.2. Overview of sampling

5.1.3. Scaling signals

5.2. Lab: Light sensor and line following.

5.3. Problems

5.4. ECE Overviews: Digital Signal Processing and Systems/Control

6. Wireless Communications and Networking

6.1. Bluetooth

6.1.1. Bluetooth standard as realized on the NXT

6.2. Connecting NXTs and Computers with Bluetooth in LabVIEW

6.3. Lab: Wireless communications – getting robots to work together

6.4. Problems

6.5. ECE Overview: Communications and Networking

7. More Advanced Programming

7.1. Debugging

7.2. Tree structures

7.2.1. Example application: solving a maze

7.3. Lab: The sound sensor and state machines

7.4. Problems

7.5. ECE Overview: Microelectronics and Nanotechnology

8. Further Explorations