Bilkent University
Department of Computer Engineering


A New Engineering Education Paradigm Using Novel Research Robots


Dr. Haldun Komsuoğlu
Postdoctoral Fellow
Dept. of Electrical and Systems Engineering
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

A nation's success in the long run critically depends on its attention to creating an effective educational system. In this context, basic science and engineering education plays an important role in developing essential creative and analytical skills in individuals and should be designed to encourage the development of problem solving skills. Our group at the University of Pennsylvania has been developing a new freshman level course that seeks to address the needs of the new age in this context and produce engineers and scientists for the 21st century. This course aims to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills by exposing students to carefully tailored problems that allow them to experience the process of knowledge discovery through observing phenomena, proposing hypotheses, and testing their ideas. In addition, this undergraduate class has an outreach component for which students are required to visit local high schools and teach high school students some of the topics they study. Our preliminary data shows that the outreach experience immensely benefits both the undergraduates and the high school students. For the past two years, our group has been piloting this introductory engineering course at the University of Pennsylvania, and the response from the students has been overwhelmingly positive. The core of the class is its laboratory section in which students get to work on a state of the art legged robotic platform, ZinGO. Our team is working with cognitive psychologists and other teaching experts to systematically evaluate the efficacy of this approach and compare and contrast it with traditional introductory engineering courses. In this talk, I will report on our ongoing efforts to rework the freshman year engineering experience at the University of Pennsylvania. I will start with a summary of the traditional educational system and its shortcomings. Next, I will introduce our new education paradigm, paying specific attention to the laboratory and the use of our legged robotic platform. I will also present some preliminary data from our evaluations and videos from the classroom illustrating the educational model. Finally, I will outline our tentative thoughts about how to extend this course to higher levels both in undergraduate and graduate programs. I will conclude with a discussion on the possible applications of this educational method in Turkey.


DATE: November 7, 2006, Tuesday@ 15:30