SMS 416: Engineering literacy for marine sciences

Syllabus- Spring 2018


Meeting times: Tuesdays: 14:00-15:15

                          Thursday: 14:00-15:15

Most class time will be devoted to work on projects.

Instructors:  Emmanuel Boss, & James Loftin,

Office hours: by appointment. Don't hesitate to come by during class time if we can help.

Course goal: Introduce students to programming, sensors and robotics through hands-on projects. Additional goals include: 1. Students learn to work by themselves and in groups gaining confidence in their ability to learn information and skills on their own in the future. For some, this class will lead naturally to finding new and exciting capstone opportunities.

Student responsibilities: attend classes, be on time, maintain an active blog (write at least once a week), provide feedback via blog and via discussions with instructor, read reading materials, submit assignments on time. It is expected that you will spend, on average, 6-9 hrs a week on this class (this IS a 3 credits class).

Assignments: assignment consist of a series of projects accomplished about every week or two. Assignments will come with a rubric detailing what is expected of the students for a given grade. Extra credit will be awarded to projects that go above and beyond the rubric expectation.


Participation: 10% {points taken off for: 1. Not coming to class (w/o prior notice). 2. Comming late to class}

Assignments: 70%.

Blog (weekly): 20%  (blog handout + rubric [PDF]).  Assignment: A blog entry needs to be entered every week by Friday night (11:59pm).

Reading:  Reading materials will be provided as needed to fill in knowledge gaps needed for deeper understanding of concepts associated with projects and to expand our understanding of the larger issues associated with the technology and its role in marine sciences.

H1N1: In the event of disruption of normal classroom activities due to an H1N1 swine flu outbreak, the format for this course may be modified to enable completion of the course.  In that event, you will be provided an addendum to this syllabus that will supersede this version.

A paper describing the class in its 2012 incarnation can be found here

Syllabus, subject to change, (last updated January 28, 2018):




Assignment/ additional material


Jan 23

Introduction and course mechanics

+ Recieve your Foldscope and a Sparkfun inventor kit (if you do all the projects you are welcome to keep the kit).

Assemble the Foldscope (see for instructions.

Assignment: A blog entry needs to be entered every week by Friday midnight. Content of blog should reflect both work you have been doing and relate to all of the readings (movies, websites, articles etc').

  • Set up a blog [PDF].

1st project (due, on your blog, Jan 26th) [PDF]

Assignment (Comment on it in your blog, due Jan. 26th):

1. Watch the whole of Randy Pausch's (last) seminar at Carnegie Mellon: 

2. See Manu Prakash's two talsk about the Foldscopes (1st generation) and (2nd generation+accessible science)

Jan 25

Take pictures and make movies with your foldscope.


Jan 30

Begin Scratch project.

1st Scratch project (due Tue., Feb 6th) [PDF]

Feb 1

For blog:

Read about programming history [here], and about the benefit of programming [here].


Feb 6

Scratch I - project due. Scratch II

2nd Scratch project (due Thu., Feb 15th) [PDF]

Blog 'reading': Watch Ken Robinson's full talk about changing paradigm in education [link] OR its short, cartoon version [link] AND watch the TED talk by Sal Kahn on Let’s use video to reinvent education (2011)  [link].

Feb 8


Feb 13

Scratch II - project due / sensor I (Arduino)

1st sensor project (due Thu., Feb 27th) [PDF]


Feb 15


Feb 20

Sensor I

Feb 22




Feb 27

Sensor I / Sensor II

2nd sensor project (due Thu., Mar 8th) [PDF]


Mar 1

Sensor II


Mar 6

Sensor II


Mar 8

Blog 'reading': Watch Astro Teller's talk about the benefit of failing[link] AND watch Reginaon Hartley's talk about why the best hire might nt have the perfect resume [link].

---------------March 12- March 19 spring break-------------


Mar 20

Robotics - tutorial

For March 23rd: watch and comment on Robin Murphy "These robots come to the rescue after a disaster" [link] Dennis Hong "My seven species of robot -- and how we created them" [link] and Mona Chalabi short talk on "how to spot bad statistics" [link].

For March 30th: watch and comment on PW Singer's talk on "Military robots and the future of war" [link] and two talks by Dan Arieli "Beware conflicts of interest" [link], and "Our buggy moral code" [link].

And For April 6th: Watch Adam Gran'st "the surprising habits of original thinkers [link] and Tom Wuje'sc "Build a tower, build a team" [link].

For April 13th: watch and comment on Robert Gordon "The death of innovation, the end of growth" [link], Erik Brynjolfsson "The key to growth? Race with the machines" [link] and, for a relief, Paolo Cardini "Forget multitasking, try monotasking"[link].

For April 20th: watch and comment on David Lang "my underwater robot[link], Cesar Harada novel idea for cleaning up oil spills [link] and, for a relief, Shawn Achor "the happy secret to better"[link].

For April 27th: read and comment on thirteen innovative ways humans use drones [link]

For May 4th: Final blog

In addition to summarizing the week, please answer on your final blog the following three questions (based on your experience this semester):

1: How could the class 'Engineering literacy' change for the better for future students?

2. What other skills/knowledge-base could you see being taught in a similar format?

3. Are there other resources you think you should be exposed to beyond the web talks?

The Robotics module includes several assignments:

1. Tutorial - learn how to build and program the robot and associated sensors (new software here or here, [PDF]. Another tutorial + two in YouTube (part1part2) + one from Oregon

2. Missions - perform successfully 3 missions out of the following 10 (before you can move on to building your own).

First Robot challenge - Pop Bot [PDF]   

2nd Robot challenge - Table Bot [PDF]

3rd Robot challenge - Robo line runner [PDF].

4th Robot challenge - Pipe Bot [PDF]

5th robot challenge - Firefly [PDF]

6th robot challenge - Mazing [PDF]

7th robot challenge - Laps runner [PDF]

8th robot challenge - Mower [PDF]

9th robot challenge - Slalom [PDF]

10th robot challenge - Line follower [PDF]

Rubric for challenges: A-all is accomplished, B-two are accomplished and one attempted, C-two are accomplished, D-one is accomplished a second one attempted. E- one is accomplished. F-not done.

3. Build (including sodering [PDF] if needed) a senosr that integrates to the robot and calibrate it. Requirments are the same as with the 1st sensor project (calibration, mistery substance/conditions, writeup).

You will need to use to install the Legacy Block Library I searched on Lego Legacy Block and went to the following site: On the left side click to select "Patches", then scroll to the right to the " Legacy Block - English".  Download and unzip. In Mindstorms software, go to "Tools", then "Block Import", then brows to the legacy block folder and pick the old sensor you want.

To store data collected with a sensor see:

4. Final project: build an AUV or ROV that will profile in the UMaine swimming pool down to 1m depth taking data with an environmental sensor along the way. If there is an alternative project you would rather do, feel free to pitch it.

Mar 22


Mar 27

Robotics - tutorial / missions

Mar 29



Robotics - missions

Apr 5


Apr 10

Robotics - missions/sensor

Apr 12


Apr 17

Robotics - should start final project

Apr 19


Apr 24

Robotics -final project

Apr 26


May 1

Final robotics project presentations (can also present during exam week)

May 3


Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers, Dan O'Sullivan and Tom Igoe, 2004, Thomson Course Technology PTR; ISBN: 159200346X

Getting started in electronics, Forrest M. Mims III,

Sensors & electronics:

Sensors for robots:

The home page of Forrest M Mims III,

Introduction to electronics,

MAKE, the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) resource,

Tutorials for electronics projects from sparkfun,

Instructables, a place where people share DIY instruction of many things,


A repository of NXT robots/projects, includes the programs:

Relevant courses on the WWW:

Lecture on programming:

Designing animation and game with scratch teaching site (click on English to switch languages):

Physical computing at NYU:

Other useful resources on the WWW:

A language to program visuals:

Lego project with additional sensors from Vernier:

Free college courses(including beginning courses in computer sciences:,,, and

Boss & Loftin, 2018
This page was last edited on January 28, 2018