Pilot case Thomas More: Introduction to mechatronics

The new industrial revolution has arrived. In Industry 4.0, man and machine come very close to each other. There is a shift from mass production to personalised mass industry, an industry that can ensure more employment for Europe. Preparing students for this is very important. that is why we, as the Belgian partner, have developed the project ‘introduction to mechatronics’.

Figure 1: Construction line follower robot

In this pilot, our aim is to integrate the basic knowledge of robotics. The students will be getting in touch with programming, mechanics and materials. The intention of the project is that the student are able to make their own personal robot. The first lessons are an introduction to the theory, followed by a hands-on exercises. Later on they will be able to start working on the project in group.

The success criterion of the pilot is to broaden the automation view of the students. expand the digital mindset of the students, and teach them how to communicate with each other to fulfil a project. The competencies to use their acquired knowledge about robotic skills in collaboration with the common sense how to assemble certain components together aims to act as a demonstration of the capabilities of integrated systems. This is a topics that they were not familiar with beforehand in a construction context.

The students are having a lot of theoretical courses the first semester the main of this project is to combine the practical side of every theoretical course. In the project there is a part robotics, electronics, mechanics and knowledge about materials. The students have the ability to work together to merge the topics together and learn how to work with each other.  This goal corresponds with the industrial analysis, the importance of maintaining knowledge and implementing it in their own way in a project was a requested skill by the industry.

Figure 2: Creations body line follower robot by students

Through Covid the pilot was not executed as planned but took nevertheless a positive spin. Normally the students had to work together in the classroom and would have been able to execute testtrails for their robotcar. Due Covid the student could exercise the first 5 (out of 12) weeks. After that everything went in lockdown. The classroom environment was replaced by an online classroom and a replacement track was provided. Besides the provided track the students could choose to create their own track, this let to some really creative input/outlet of the students.  They were also obliged to be present in the online meeting between class hours. It turned out that they find this structure very pleasant and that they could work in a more organized way. The students had to make a body for the robot. Normally there is a ‘Makerspace’ available with (payed by the school) materials on the campus, this way the students could have developed the body. Unfortunately it was closed by COVID-19. This presented a difficulty with materials. normally a certain material was specified per group for the body, this was changed to a certain movie theme steampunk, fantasy,.. each group was given a specific theme where they could choose the material in which they would built it in. this was changed so the could choose a material that didn’t cost a lot of money and could work with materials that they have at home. This again resulted in very original designs as you can see in the pictures. It can therefore be concluded that despite the setbacks with covid, the pilot was handled very well an positively.