SMS 491: Engineering literacy for the 21st century

Syllabus- Spring 2010


Meeting times: Tuesdays: 11:00-12:15

                          Thursday: 11:00-12:15

Most class time will be devoted to projects.

Instructor:  Emmanuel Boss,

Lab manager: James Loftin,

Office hours: by appointment

Course goal: Introduce undergraduate students to programming, sensors and robotics through hands-on projects.

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 material, submit assignments.

Assignments: assignment consist of a series of project accomplished about every two weeks. Assignment 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%.

Assignments: 70%

Blog (weekly): 20%  (blog handout + rubric [PDF]). 

Reading:  Reading material will be provided as needed to feel in knowledge gaps needed for deeper understanding of concepts associated with projects and to expand our understanding of the larger issues associated with technologies discussed.

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.

Sam programs the lego-brained Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) before its pool performance (movie coming soon!)

Syllabus, subject to change, (last updated 05/25/2010):




Assignment/ additional material


Jan 12

Introduction and course mechanics. [PDF]

Assignment: A blog entry needs to be entered every week by Friday.

Jan 14

Begin programming with Scratch.

1st Scratch project (due Thu, Jan 21st) [PDF]



Jan 19


Jan 21

Presentation of 1st Scratch project. Presentation time: 11am.

Scratch 1st projects: Matt, Sam, Andrew, James, Carlin, Kevin, Jeremy, Ruth, Stacey.


Jan 26


2nd Scratch project (due Tue, Feb 9th) [PDF]

Reading for Feb. 9th: the introduction and Ch.1 of Physical Computing.

Jan 28


Feb 2


 Choose a sensor to build in sensor unit (so we can insure supplies are available).

Feb 4

Readings: - basic electronics, and follow links within.

See also:

If you have never worked with circuits consider building circuits with the snap circuits we have in the lab.


Feb 9


Presentations of 2nd Scratch project.

Homework: Sensor Assignment 1(due Feb 23rd) [PDF]

Feb 11



Feb 16



Feb 18


Feb 23

 Programmable Sensor

Sensors presentations. Programmable sensor assignment (due Mar 18th) [PDF].

Feb 25


---------------February 27- March 15 spring break-------------


Mar 16

Programmable Sensor / Robotics

Mar 18

Programmable sensors presentations./Tutorial - how to program the robot to move and respond to sensors [PDF].


Mar 23

Robotics - start

Mar 25

Complete the tutorial. Start working on challenges (individual: 3 challenges, team of two: 4 challenges. Extra credits for best of show. Final project = 2 challenges).


Mar 30


First Robot challenge - Pop Bot [PDF]    Here is one built, and another one

Rubric for challenges: A-all is accomplished, B-more than 75% is accomplished, C-50-75% is accomplished, D-25-50% is accomplished. E- some robot response. F-not done.

Apr 1



Apr 6


2nd Robot challenge - Table Bot [PDF] Here is one built

Apr 8


Apr 13


3rd Robot challenge - Robo line runner [PDF]. Here is one built

Apr 15


Apr 20


4th Robot challenge - Pipe Bot [PDF]/ or begin robot project: [build a submersible, program it to collect data at the bottom of the sink come back to the surface and transmit the data, or come up with your own challenging project]. Here is one built

Apr 22

Pictures of submersible AUV controled by lego brick: [AUV_1] [AUV_2] [AUV_3][AUV_4][AUV_5][AUV_6][AUV_7]


Apr 27

Final robotics project. presentations

Apr 29

5th robot challenge - Firefly [PDF] or / Final Robot project presentation. Here is one built

Links to some class blogs:

Text books:

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




Page with links relevant to RCX robotics [PDF]

Relevant courses on the WWW:

Computer programming 101 by Guy W. Lecky-Thompson:

Lecture on programming:

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

Physical computing at NYU:

ELEC 201. Introduction to Engineering design (also known as Lego lab) .,

Other useful resources on the WWW:

Resources for using Robolab with Lego robots:

Article on programming languages for Lego Mindstorms NXT:

Site to plot data in many different (and new) ways:

A language to program visuals:

Lego project with additional sensors from Vernier:

A repository of NXT robots:

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

Boss, 2010
This page was last edited on 05/25/2010