Most Fun Exam Ever? Robotics Class

Alternate title: Forget blue books, we’ve got heat guns

It’s time for the winter trimester exams. Given that robotics is a new prep for me, I’ve carefully considered what my exam should look like. My design goals were roughly as follows: 1) mirror the type of learning we’ve done this year, 2) but not rehash old material, 3) uphold my emphasis on deferring to the documentation, and 4) be achievable by a range of students in about 2 hours.

Below is the exam as I’ll give it to the students. At the end is a video demonstrating my thermometer (which will *not* be given to the students).

Objective

Create a thermometer that reads and displays the temperature.

Detailed requirements:

  • display the temperature on a physical scale in °C
  • distinguish temperatures to a resolution of 5°C (as in, the user should be able to tell 25°C from 30°C)
  • run a self-test on startup to show the thermometer’s possible range of values (as in, hit the lowest temp on your scale and the highest on startup)

Provided Equipment20180304_142436.jpg

  • servo motor
  • digital temperature sensor and pull-up resistor
  • breadboard with plenty of jumper wires
  • Arduino Uno compatible board with USB cable
  • paper, pen, ruler, scissors, tape
  • heat gun

Permitted Resources

  • You may use any resources of your choosing, with one exception — no consulting with live humans. This means internet searching is allowed but emailing a friend is not.
  • You may borrow sample code from the internet, so long as you cite it and link to the source.

Submission Guidelines

Please submit a Google Doc writeup of your finished product.

  • Introduction that explains the project and gives photos of the finished product (60% of the points) & a video (or link) in which you fully demonstrate the thermometer (10% of the points)
  • Describe how the digital temperature sensor works (in terms of the scientific principle it operates on) (10%)
  • Your commented code (15%)
  • Wiring diagram or description (5%)

Student Submissions

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One thought on “Most Fun Exam Ever? Robotics Class

  1. I love this so much, and I have so many questions. First, how successful were the students on this task? Were all of them able to build a basic temperature sensor?

    My biggest question is why can’t we have a physics exam like this. We did a collaborative practicum based exam this semester, and it felt awesome—but I still wish for more. What if students came out of our exam having created something useful based on their understanding of physics. And why couldn’t this be the exam for a physics class, anyway? Seems like it would be great for a physics class to learn how sensors work on a fundamental level, and even to learn some basic Arduino programming. What if students in a physics class built their own probeware?

    I love the collaboration policy—I wonder what this sort of policy would do for even normal-ish physics exams? My one fear is that students would spend too much time trying to Google their way to answers, but I think you could easily structure the exam to discourage this.

    Anyway, I hope you and your students had a great experience with this. Thanks for inspiring me!

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