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Proceedings of the 1999 IEEUASME

International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics

September 19-23, 1999 Atlanta. USA

Mechatronics 11: Advanced Mechatronics for

Mechanical Engineering Students

John F. Gardner, John S. Lamancusa, H. Joseph Sommer, I11

Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802

Abstract-Increasingly, the field of mechatronics is seen we have introduced the Basic Stamp@ to allow students
as an essential background of a practicing mechanical to become more accustomed to embedded control
engineer. A course in Advanced Mechatronics is applications. We have been teaching this course for
described which is offered as a joint graduate- nearly 15 years and it now runs 3 times a year (Fall,
undergraduate course and is intended to be a second Spring, Summer) with a full enrollment of 32
course in mechatronics. As opposed to many
mechatronics courses, this course focuses more on students/semester. In the summer semester, graduate
intelligent product design than on DSP or controls students are allowed to enroll, but during the academic
applications. Another unique feature of the course is a year, only undergraduates are allowed. As a result,
class-wide project experience in which 10 separate between one-third and one-half of our B.S. graduates
teams work together on various subsystems of a have taken ME 462.
complex robotic rover vehicle. The class was offered for
the first time in the Spring of 1999 and 20 students, In addition to the first mechatronics course, the
both graduate and undergraduate participated. Mechanical Engineering program at Penn State features a
strong core of systems and controls courses.
Specifically, at the graduate level, students have ample
I. BACKGROUND opportunity to study digital signal processing, discrete
time systems and computer implementation,of feedback
In response to the increasing demand in the control. Part of our ongoing curriculum reform efforts is
workforce for engineers well-versed in both to bring more laboratory experiences to these courses.
mechanical and intelligent electronic systems, the
Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering
at Penn State offers a two-course sequence in the 11. COURSE OBJECTIVES
field of mechatronics. The first course, numbered
ME 462 has been taught as a 4" year technical In the new course, we assume that students are familiar
elective at Penn State and has been previously with the rudiments of circuits and circuit components
described [ 11 and is summarized briefly below. More needed to interface computers with mechanical systems.
recently, we have developed a new course and a new As a result of taking this course, it is our intention that
laboratory for 'Advanced Mechatronics'. This course students will be able to:
is offered at the graduate level, with undergraduates
who have taken ME 462 eligible for admission. It 1 . Comprehend microcontroller architecture
was taught for the first time in the Spring of 1999. descriptions and know the implication for
The first mechatronics course (ME 462) assumes that 2. Use assemblers, cross assemblers and cross
students bring with them little or no knowledge of compilers to generate executable code for stand-
electronics and electrical circuits, (their required EE alone microcontrollers
course notwithstanding.) The course deals with
3. Use manufacturer's data sheets for interface circuitsy
digital and electronic circuits, logic gates and chips, to assess the appropriateness of a component for a
operational amplifiers and filtering. More recently,

0-7803-5038-3/99/$10.000 1999 IEEE 472

given applications and implement the component
correctly in a circuit.
4. Proficiently use embedding micro-controllers
into products
5. Be capable of designing and building a working
prototype of an intelligent product

While it is clear that advanced mechatronic concepts

are best taught in the context of applications, we have
specifically chosen not to tie our course to the study
and implementation of classical, modem or digital
feedback control systems. Instead, the context we
have chosen is that of intelligent product design. The
reasons for this choice are manifold, including the
fact that our current controls curriculum is evolving
to cover the mechatronic issues involved in controls
and DSP. In addition, our contact with the industries Figure 2: The Basic Stamp 1
I Activity Board
which hire our students leads us to the conclusion
that product-oriented applications are more Data sheets for the microprocessors as well as a large
appropriate to the currentjob market. inventory interface IC's are available on the course web
site [2].

The majority of the course is conducted in the new

laboratory, pictured in Figure 1. IV. COURSE ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE

This course emphasizes hands on learning over formal

classroom lecture. However, it was felt that a certain
amount of technical content should be conveyed in the
lecture. Lecture topics include:

0 What is Mechatronics?
0 Sensors
0 Motion Control
0 Microcontroller Architecture
0 PIC Processors
0 PIC Programming (assembly language)
Figure 1: The Advanced Mechatroincs 0 Serial Data Communication
Laboratory at Penn State. 0 Discrete Digital Control
The lab has 10 workstations where students work in
0 Electronic Packaging
teams of 2. Each workstation has the following 0 Prototyping and Fabrication
equipment: 0 Case Studies

0 Pentium PC 350 MHz Much of the lecture content focuses on architecture and
programming issue for the PIC processor, which is the
ProtoBoard with power supply (+5,+/- 15 V)
main embedded control platform of the course. The
Basic Stamp I I Activity Board and power
required text [3] is a programming manual for the PIC
supply (See Figure 2)
while the supplemental text [4] is the classical
0 BSI1 Manual, processor, interface cable, electronics text by Horowitz and Hill.
carrier board
Digital Voltmeter The choice of the PIC platform for this course is closely
0 Wire Stripper related to the educational objectives of this course. The
0 Small Screwdriver PIC offers the fastest learning curve of any of the
0 Set of E2 hooks popular microcontrollers available. In addition, they
0 PIC Programmer require a minimum of support chips and circuitry to

implement a useful circuit. Finally, the Basic Stamp operational system capable of reading an analog voltage
(based on PIC processors) is available at a reasonable as an 8-bit integer. Specifically, the students:
cost which allows students to achieve results in the
lab very quickly. 1. Gain familiarity with analog input of voltage and
In addition to the above stated reasons, it was also 2. Interface an analog-digital converter ,

believed that the PIC is more representative of the 3. Implement a digital multi-meter (measure voltage
processors used in mass-produced intelligent and resistance)
products such as home appliances and entertainment
electronics. Much of this experience will transfer The reading of an analog quantity by a computer is
directly to the workplace environment. critical to using any type of sensor. Sensors typically
output a voltage or resistance proportional to the quantity
Laboratory work is divided into two categories: being measured. This lab explores the use of an ADC to
Structured laboratory experience and project. The measure voltages, and the BS2 RCTIME command to
four structured labs are designed to allow the students measure resistance.
to gain both familiarity and confidence in
programming and interfacing the PIC processor. The
labs are described in the following section. C. Lab 3 -PIC Digital U0
In this laboratory exercise, the students move away fiom
the pre-fabricated Basic Stamp systems and work with an
V. STRUCTURED LABORATORIES individual PIC microcontroller. In this situation, the
advantages of the PIC microcontroller over the Motorola
and Intel counterparts are obvious. The PIC requires a
A . Lab I -Basic Stamp I1 Digital I.0 minimum of support circuitry to operate and can be
quickly wired up into a working configuration.
For the introductory lab, the students will learn to use In addition, the students are introduced to the notion of
the Basic Stamp 2 programming environment as well an interrupt and must program to service an interrupt
as the Basic Stamp 2 "Activity Board" which is correctly. The specific objectives of the lab are:
shown in Figure 2. The students are to write a
program which links the status of one of the push- 1. Gain familiarity with PIC programming
button switches on the activity board with the environment
blinking of an LED. The students also connect a 2. Implement a digital input (from a switch)
serial LCD display to the serial port of the 3. Perform a digital output (to a LED)
microcontroller and implement a digital stopwatch 4. Interface a LCD display using a serial connection
with the push-button switches on the activity board 5 . Learn about interrupts
,and the LCD serial display showing the time. The
specific educational objectives of the lab are:
D. Lab 4 - Motion Control - servo motors
1. Gain familiarity with BS2 programming
environment Arguably, the majority of mechatronic applications deal
2. Implement a digital input (from a switch) with the ubiquitous problem of position control.
3. Perform a digital output (to a LED) Therefore, the interface and control of servomotors has
4. Interface a LCD display using a serial connection deserves special attention in a class on advanced
5 . Build experience and ability to program in an mechatronics. The students are presented with a small
event-driven environment. DC servomotor with an integrally attached incremental
encoder. The students use Pulse-Width Modulation to
control the speed of the motor while the encoders can
B. Lab 2 - Basic Stamp II - Analog Input provide information about both position and velocity.

In this experience, the students interface an 8-bit 1. Implement a closed loop position and speed
serial analog-to-digital converter with the basic controller with a DC servomotor
stamp. They begin with the IC and the 2. Gain experience with DC motors, optical encoders,
manufacturer's data sheet and finish with an PWM motor controllers
3. Learn about digital sampling errors and instability

The desired result for the student is a system which
will rotate 12 revolutions in the CW direction at a
speed of 180 rpm, then reverse direction and rotate
12 revolutions in the CCW direction, then stop.


Toward the second half of the semester, the students

have completed their structured laboratories and turn
their attention to the course project. We have had a
- 1

fair amount of experience in mechatronics projects,

having taught the undergraduate elective for many Figure 3: The Reber Rover under
years. There appears to be an important trade off construction
between significance of the project and the ability of
the students to perform the task given the constraints Fgiure 4 shows the main remote control box used for the
of a 3-credit semester course. Our solution was to Rover project.
pose a class-wide project with sufficient depth and
breadth to allow all students to make a significant
contribution. This also give the students important
experience in large scale task management. The
overall objective of the group project is to build a
robotic rover which can navigate the halls of Reber
building (home of Mechanical Engineering at Penn
State) and deliver a payload (to be determined by

The various tasks involved in getting the Reber

Rover up and running are divided in to logical groups
and assigned to the student groups. The sub-tasks

Locomotion: motor drive, steering, power

Navigation/Sensing : Figure 4: The main control panel for the
a) Electronic compass, environmental sensing
Reber Rover
b) Polaroid sensor, servo, wireless video, bump
Life form interface/payload: voice synthesizer,
grabber, nerf ball launcher, door knocker.. . VII. CONCLUSIONS
"Mainmind": on-board controller, system
integration, supervisory control of sub-systems The main issues confronting us in bringing together a
(2 groups) course such as this it the problem of striking the correct
Mission control: base station, RF comm link, balance between including enough background to allow
joystick, operator input (2 groups) the students to make significant progress in their projects
and overwhelming them with details. The PIC
Figure 3 shows a photograph of the Reber Rover as it microprocessor aid the Basic Stamp allow the student to
neared completion (with 1 week remaining in the get up and running on embedded control with a
semester. The intended direction of forward motion minimum of overhead. We have found that the students
is to the right in the picture. The vertical mast were then freer to explore the mechanical design and
contains a miniature digital camera which acquires a interfacing issues which make up the 'mechanical' side of
digital image and relays it via the radio link. mechatronics.

Finally, we are pleased with our choice of intelligent

product control as a focus of the course. As opposed to

DSP-like applications, product design exposes
students to a broader range of mechatronics concepts
including interfacing, packaging and multi-task


Gardner, J.F. and J. S. Lamancusa. Microcomputer

Interfacing for Mechanical Engineers A Success Story.
Proceedings of ASME 1989 Mechanical Engineering
Department Heads Conference-, (March, 1989).
Lamanucusa, John. WWW site for ME 597C: Advanced
Predko, M. Programming and Customizing the PIC
Microcontroller, McGraw-Hill, 1998
Horowitz, Paul and Winfiled Hill The Art of Electronics,
*d, Cambridge University Press, 1989.