A Proposed Platform to Simplify the Integration of Electronics into a Mechanical Engineering Design Course

by | Aug 31, 2012

Authors: Brett Skaloud, Senthil Chandrasegaran, Karthik Ramani
Proceedings of the ASME 2012 IDETC/CIE.

Abstract: The interdisciplinary nature of engineering design and the pervasiveness of electronics in most products has made it necessary for practitioners of “design thinking” to understand electronics and embedded systems, in order to expand their concept exploration space. This poses a significant challenge for mechanical engineers, whose knowledge of electronics is typically limited. A course in mechatronics is available to enhance this knowledge, however it is taught separate from product design and CAD/Toy Design, and students often do not get the opportunity to combine these elements. With an open source microcontroller platform (Arduino™) that allows for easy programming, we see an oppportunity to blend design thinking into a larger domain of engineering. In this paper, we propose a platform that would simplify the  incorporation of electronics into a design. The proposed platform will utilize the Arduino™ , along with a modular architecture for designing electronic systems, as well as modular program segments for controlling these systems which can be easily customized to meet student requirements. This will enable students in a toy design course to integrate  electromechanical systems into their designs, while at the same time providing useful electronic knowledge which can be used in their future careers. The toy design projects utilize a Problem-Based Learning approach that will allow students to familiarize themselves with the synthesis and programming of these systems. We describe two student test teams that were introduced to this electronic integration in an existing toy design course, and we use our observations to inform the design of the proposed platform.