When mechanical engineering students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) took on their annual robotics challenge this year, they did so with some help from NI. Professors wanted to provide undergraduate students with a wide variety of programming experience to help students develop sophisticated code for their robot designs.
In the past, MIT had positive experiences with LabVIEW for robotics research, but they had never implemented these products into an undergraduate robotics course. After only 5 percent of students took part in the coding process, MIT had high hopes that the adoption of graphical programming would help increase the amount of students who were coding in course projects and ultimately enhance the overall robotic design experience.
Before the robotics competition even took place, students worked on various coding projects with LabVIEW and CompactRIO. In a short time, students were using LabVIEW as well as LabVIEW MathScript Code and NI Vision Assistant to incorporate vision-guided motion into their projects. Students quickly became familiar with the effective design integration and ease of use in these products.
By the time student teams began to work on their robotic system, the percentage of student programming had already increased significantly. Students had to design,
build, and control a robotic mechanism that could actually perform several operations. With the help of LabVIEW software, each student was able to take part in a portion of the programming. In the end, each team was able to get their robot working either independently or in manual mode.
The gantry robot was used for the “Operation Plug the Oil Well” design contest at the end of the course.
Students found this new integration of LabVIEW programming and NI hardware to be quite a positive experience, and the overall percentage of students programming with LabVIEW increased to 30 to 40 percent. More students were able to participate and, more importantly, students found the programs very easy to use.