Taught every January term by Professors Susan Carbone and Howard Lichtman, this is an introductory course in robotics programming for students with no prior programming background. We cover the fundamentals of programming and then move on to special topics for programming robots. Using LEGO NXT-G kits, students build and program robots of increasing complexity throughout the course, beginning on the first day.
Robots must adapt their behavior based on input from the environment and simple algorithms. The LEGO NXT-G robots have input sensors for sound, light, touch and distance plus three motors for movement. Students build and program their robots to perform such tasks as following a line, staying within a set boundary, advancing forward and backward avoiding obstacles, among others. There is even a robot that writes your name using a Sharpie on a pad of paper!
The final week of the course is devoted to individual projects. Students build and program a robot of their choosing using their newly acquired skills to showcase their robot's abilities. Over the years students have created upright walking robots (who sometimes dance), scorpions, dogs, spiders, tanks, racing cars, an automated grabber claw, golf-bots, forklifts, and many more. On the final day of the class students present their culminating robotics project. This is a very popular class and people from across campus come every year to see the newest creations on showcase day.
Advanced programming classes for Computer Science majors are offered when demand is present. These are taught at a higher level of difficulty, often using higher level programming languages. There have been cybernetic senior thesis projects as well. Seniors have utilized the LEGO NXT-G robotic components to explore and develop higher level algorithms using more advanced programming techniques.