Mark Carnes: Combining industry experience with Engineering Education

Carnes Boilerbots
The Purdue College of Technology at Kokomo Boilerbots team with faculty mentor Mark Carnes (top right)
When he isn’t working on his Ph.D. in Engineering Education, Mark Carnes is teaching at Purdue University - College of Technology at Kokomo. He mixes his more than 30 years’ experience in product design with what he’s learned in the areas of Project Based Learning and how people learn to the benefit of his students.

Mark says the combination contributes to the development of his core competency in teaching. It also helps the students on the Purdue-Kokomo Boilerbots team thanks to his role as faculty mentor.

“From the beginning of the project, I have insisted that the team follow sound engineering principles in the design of the product,” Mark says. “This includes analysis and justification of decisions made, design for quality and robustness, and attention to detail.” 

He believes that resulted in the creation of a quality product. The Purdue-Kokomo Boilerbots won second place in the recent Robot Football Combine in South Bend.

The faculty mentors from both the University of Notre Dame and the U.S. Naval Academy praised the Purdue-Kokomo team for the quality of its design.  In fact, both indicated to Mark that they intend to incorporate some of his team’s ideas into their future designs.

The Combine consisted of individual skill events, testing the robot players’ speed, agility, strength and robustness, followed by a short scrimmage, testing their ability to play American football as a team.

Five teams participated in the event:  Purdue-Kokomo, The U.S. Naval Academy, University of Notre Dame, Purdue-Calumet, and Purdue-South Bend. 

Purdue-Kokomo won both the speed and the agility tests by comfortable margins.  Navy won the strength test and the passing contest, as they were the only team that had a functioning passer. The scrimmage ended with the Purdue-Kokomo/Navy team defeating Notre Dame 14-0.

The final test of the day was a robustness test, in which each player was struck by a large weight swinging on a pendulum.  The player would pass the test if he was able to drive away after the hit.  All of the Purdue-Kokomo players passed the test easily due to the strength of their design, while one of the Navy players failed when his battery wires broke loose.

In the final composite scoring, the Naval Academy narrowly edged out the Purdue-Kokomo team for the overall championship prize of $2,000 dollars.

An unexpected outcome of the competition was the camaraderie that quickly developed among the players from the various schools.  They could often be seen sitting together to compare notes on their design ideas, and to discuss issues they had faced and decisions made.  All were freely sharing their ideas in a spirit of cooperation.

“I believe that this is the most effective Project Based Learning activity that I have ever led,” Mark says. “The competition was a valuable test of the current state of their designs, and provided a lot of direction for future design improvements as they move forward in their efforts to build a complete team of robots to be able to compete for the National Championship of Robotic Football.”

The Purdue University - College of Technology at Kokomo, as part of Purdue’s presence around the state, focuses on offering technology education in the North Central Indiana area. It offers degrees in computer and information technology, electrical engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology and organizational leadership on the campus of Indiana University Kokomo.