If you have a course that you would like to see a Course Exam article written for or you recently took a course that you would like to recommend to other AU students, please feel free to reach out with the course name and number, and any questions or feedback you may have. We’ll be happy to write about it in our next Course Exam article.
COMP 444 is a three-credit senior level Computer Science course “designed to introduce you to robotic programming using Arduino.” The course explores the first principle and expands to advanced topics of robotic control. The course does have a pre-requisite of COMP 200 or approval by the Course Coordinator and is not available for challenge. For those who have not taken COMP 200 and are interested in doing so, feel free to check out the course exam article for COMP 200.
Why You Should Take This Course
Robotics technology has slowly made its way into our daily lives and is becoming an important aspect of them without us even realizing. This includes the popular iRobot vacuum and its floor maps, self-driving vehicles, smart home devices, robotic toys for kids, robots used to explore space, and many robotic technologies used in health care, agriculture, transportation, utilities, and security. Robotic programming and technology are everywhere, including at home and work. Robotics has the power to transform our lives and work environments positively, increase efficiency, raise awareness for safety and provide better services.
For anyone who’s tech savvy or interested in robots or programming, this course is a must take for you! This course will introduce students to robotic programming using Arduino hardware and software, and teach students about robotic movements, sensing, feedback/architectures, representation, behavior, control, and coordination. Students also have the opportunity to build their own robot, how cool is that?!
Course, Assignment and Final Exam Details
The course itself is composed of thirteen units starting with the orientation/introduction and moving to robotic movements, robotic sensing, robotic controls, unexpected outcomes/emergent behavior, navigation, and group robotics, learning and robots, and finishing off with examining the ethical implications of robots in modern society.
The course consists of three assignments each worth 10% along with a project worth 40% of the total grade. There is a group work and collaboration part of the course that is worth 15%. There is no midterm for the course, however, there is a final exam that is worth 15%.
How to Be Successful in the Course
Introducing Mr. Richard Huntrods P.Eng – Course Coordinator
Mr. Richard Huntrods graduated from university with a B.Sc. in analytical chemistry (1977), then a B.Sc. in chemical engineering (1980) followed by a master’s degree in chemical engineering in 1988. His project was the computer simulation of a cooling reactor for ethylene production.
After graduation in 1980, Mr. Huntrods began working in the IT sector for various oil and gas companies. He wrote reservoir simulators in FORTRAN for four years, supported various engineering applications on a variety of hardware platforms, and generally worked as an IT software engineer during the 80’s. In the ’90s, he went independent—becoming a consultant software engineer. In addition to some typical energy sector programming, he spent time developing microprocessor applications, including a MIDI engine for a sound card. During the ’90s he began teaching programming in the evenings at a local college. In the late ’90s, Mr. Huntrods joined SAIT as a full-time instructor. From 1998-2000 he was the Computer Technology Program Coordinator. During that time, he began tutoring for Athabasca University. In 2001 Mr. Huntrods left SAIT to join Athabasca University full time. He still consults for several companies, working on various enterprise applications (server-side Java).
A registered professional engineer (retired), he is also a glassblower and an avid SCUBA diver. In 2007 he switched to a rebreather so he could spend more time photographing underwater wildlife around Vancouver Island. You can find more on his general website at http://huntrods.com/ and his scuba website at: http://scuba.huntrods.com/
Mr. Huntrods’ Advice for the Course
“COMP444 was the first course I designed ‘from the ground up’ to use both hardware and social learning theory. The hardware was quite difficult. At the time the course was developed, the only real ‘educational’ hardware was the Lego Mindstorms for Education. It turned out to be too expensive to incorporate into a distance course.
I spent some time searching the internet for an inexpensive microprocessor that was popular and current. There are many on the market, but at the time the Arduino was getting a lot of attention. It was brand new, yet still there was a wealth of information about it on the internet, as well as a lot of interest and programming ideas. I felt it also important that we not just supply a micro controller, but a complete kit that also included important electronic and electrical components that would be easy to use and not require us stocking numerous individual components; something complete that we could order and send to the students. I found that Sparkfun (in the USA) sold a relatively inexpensive complete kit (Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit, a.k.a. SIK) including the Arduino as well as many great components. The kit had been designed for STEM education in the K-12 market in the USA. It fit our needs perfectly.
I also needed a textbook, preferably one that covered a great many topics in introductory robotics. The text chosen is not huge, but it’s coverage of the material is exceptional. It’s easy to read as well. It is sent (it’s a physical paper book) together with the SIK to every student enrolled in the course. As it’s both excellent and short, the entire text is read as part of the study activities.
Much of the course is designed around exploration and self-documentation (blogging, writing a journal, etc.). The course is very open-ended. Other than answering some leading questions for each unit and completing all the experiments in the SIK guide, students are free to explore any project they choose. Projects can be created from just the components of the SIK, or can be created using additional purchased items from numerous internet sources. There is no requirement to purchase anything for the project, but many students in the course are so enthused at the idea of building a robot of some type that they have chosen to purchase components to make it a reality.
The final exam consists of two questions. The first question asks the student to describe in detail their project using a supplied framework. The second question asks the student to reflect on their learning journey with the course and offer any comments or suggestions to improve the course.”
If you have any further questions regarding the course, please do not hesitate to contact the Course Coordinator, Mr. Richard Huntrods at email@example.com. Happy robot building!