In a lab that we call "MATLAB® meets LEGO Mindstorms," more than 300 first-year students at RWTH Aachen University build and program their own robots.
The course links mathematics taught in the first term with digital signal processing applications. It focuses on discrete signals and system theory, covering topics including signal sampling, LSI systems, Fourier transforms, vector spaces, and matrix operations. In addition to a two-hour introduction to MATLAB, students receive MATLAB example code and demos, and links to other mathematics courses that focus on linear algebra. After two months, the associated lab brings all the material together as the students build their robots.
We designed the course to enable the students not only to learn math and signal processing theory but also to apply it by implementing MATLAB algorithms in machines that move, that actually do something. We chose MATLAB as a basis for the course because with MATLAB, taking an algorithm developed on a white board to a working implementation is straightforward. Many of the class lectures require matrix and vector operations, which we can map directly to MATLAB algorithms. MATLAB is a natural environment for these kinds of operations, providing students with an easy way to learn mathematical methods using real applications.
By Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Til Aach and Alexander Behrens, RWTH Aachen University
This article was published in MATLAB Digest | Academic Edition, August 2008