When it comes to choosing a university-level class, sometimes a course with an interesting name can make all the difference in enticing students to sign up. “Control of Mobile Robots”, a seven-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by the Georgia Institute of Technology through Coursera was taught by Professor Magnus Egerstedt in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The course, which investigated modern control theory and robots, attracted nearly 34,000 students during its spring 2014 semester.
TIers recently had the pleasure of hearing from Jean-Pierre de la Croix and Rowland O’Flaherty, two Ph.D. candidates at Georgia Tech and TAs for “Control of Mobile Robots,” who not only presented an overview of their respective research activities on robots, but also spoke to the successes of the MOOC, which has been offered during two different semesters through Georgia Tech.
The first semester of “Control of Mobile Robots” (spring ’13) posted some impressive numbers – 46,000 students enrolled representing more than 100 different countries. A major benefit of any MOOC is the ability to bring a high level of education to people that may not be able to go to college or take classes in the traditional sense, and 45 percent of the countries represented during the semester were countries with emerging economies. Considering that the MOOC is free to students, it’s not surprising that many students don’t take the quizzes or final exams – some are just interested in simply learning. Still, 9,720 completed the first quiz of the semester and 3,607 stuck it out until the course’s end.
In its spring ’14 semester, the course attracted 34,000 students again representing more than 100 countries (46 percent coming from countries with emerging economies).
The course covered theory, programming, simulations and lastly hardware, where TI technology played an important role. It offered supplementary lectures that focused on how to build your own mobile robot and included tutorials based around BeagleBone Black, featuring TI's Sitara™ ARM® Cortex-A8 processor. Students were able to configure the BeagleBone Black, work with a mobile robot simulator, Sim.I.am and also collaborate with others on their robot designs through an open-source platform called O-Botics.org.
Offering actual hardware to the students was crucial to the success of the MOOC because students were able to take what they learned in lectures and apply it in a meaningful way. The Bill of Materials of the QuickBot included all off-the-shelf products, key to success for global access. The collaboration included some key participation from MATLAB, SparkFun and CircuitCo as well as parts from AdaFruit and Logic Supply.
The partnership with Georgia Tech and the MOOC is the second of its kind for TI. They’ve also partnered with the University of Texas at Austin for their UT.6.01x class on embedded systems, a ‘learn-by-doing’ course that shows students how to build solutions to real-world problems using embedded systems. More information on that MOOC can be found here.
TI’s partnership with two different university-level MOOCs is an exciting one, and the company has seen that it can make an impact not only to engineering students, but also to hobbyists and those just learning the basic concepts of engineering. Education for all – now that’s an innovative idea.
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