Queen Mary students learn how to design, prototype and programme robots at home
Despite COVID-19 restrictions students on the robotics programme at QMUL taught by the School of Engineering and Materials Science, and by the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science were still able to successfully learn how to design, prototype and programme robots.
Restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic have introduced significant challenges for teaching practical engineering and computer science topics. For the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), this has meant our students have had restricted access to our laboratories – teaching spaces where they would normally learn designing and operating complex engineering systems. It can be very difficult to teach and learn advanced engineering without being able to practice with physical systems in a laboratory environment.
Thankfully the school was able to allocate additional resources to support students learning about engineering remotely. EECS became one of the few departments in the country to organise and distribute specialised hardware home kits for their undergraduate students studying robotics engineering. Such support was particularly important for second year robotics students taught by Dr Ildar Farkhatdinov, a Lecturer in Robotics, who teaches how to design and prototype mechanisms, and programme electronic controllers for robotic systems through intensive practical engineering activities.
The EECS electronics laboratory team led by Mr Kok Ho Huen prepared a specialised robotics kit for this course. The kits included programmable microcontrollers, actuators, sensors and electro-mechanical components so that the students were able to implement their design concepts and build a multi-link robotic system capable of moving along the programmed trajectories. The opportunity to use the kits for their studies at home allowed the students to obtain important engineering expertise in computer-aided design, mechatronic systems analysis, control and system integration, and rapid prototyping tools such as 3D printing and laser cutting, all skills that will be useful for their future studies and careers. The illustrations demonstrate the robotic systems built by the students using the EECS-robotics home kits.
Feedback from the students was positive. Audric Paris, a second year robotics engineering student, commented: “I enjoyed the module very much, especially because we had flexibility to decide on the robot design and implementation. Thanks to the teaching team’s guidance and support I was able to master successfully computer aided design, control engineering and rapid prototyping techniques.”
The robotics programme at QMUL is taught by the School of Engineering and Materials Science and by the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science. The key modules are taught by the academics of the Centre for Advanced Robotics at Queen Mary, led by Professor Kaspar Althoefer. Students from the first year module Aspects of Robotics were also sent robot kits to learn with at home. The second year robotics students were supported by teaching demonstrators Mr Ata Otaran and Mr Eisa Anwar, and electronics laboratory technicians Patricia Goodard and David Wilkinson.
One of the robots used for the Aspects of Robotics module.
Robots with parallel kinematics built by Dexter Freeman and Audric Paris