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  • "Teaching Practical Engineering for Freshman Students using the RWTH – Mindstorms NXT Toolbox for MATLAB", Alexander Behrens, Linus Atorf and Til Aach, Matlab - Modelling, Programming and Simulations, InTech, Oct., pp.41-6-5, 2010, *invited paper*
    Read according chapter online or download the whole book.

  • MATLAB meets LEGO Mindstorms - hands-on Projekt für Erstsemester, Alexander Behrens, relatif - Campus-Magazin Aachen, no. 8, pp.16--17, November, 2009, (Download) or (relatif no. 8)

    MATLAB meets LEGO Mindstorms - hands-on Projekt für Erstsemester
    "Ich habe of bemerkt, daß wir uns durch allzu vieles Symbolisieren die Sprache für die Wirklichkeit untüchtig machen." - Christian Morgenstern. Wer hat diesen Gedanken nicht auch schon oft während einer Grundlagenpflichtvorlesung mit Christian Morgenstern geteilt. Denn gerade Vorlesungen des elektrotechnischen Grundstudiums behandeln zu Beginn...

  • MATLAB Meets LEGO Mindstorms - A Freshman Introduction Course Into Practical Engineering, A. Behrens, L. Atorf, R. Schwann, B. Neumann, R. Schnitzler, J. Ballé, T. Herold, A. Telle, T.G. Noll, K. Hameyer and T. Aach, IEEE Transactions on Education, vol. 53, no. 2, pp.306—317 2010, (BibTeX) (Download)

    In today's teaching and learning approaches for first-semester students, practical courses more and more often complement traditional theoretical lectures. This practical element allows an early insight into the real world of engineering, augments student motivation, and enables students to acquire soft skills early. This paper describes a new freshman introduction course into practical engineering, which has been established within the Bachelor of Science curriculum of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology of RWTH Aachen University, Germany. The course is organized as an eight-day, full-time block laboratory for over 300 freshman students, who were supervised by more than 60 tutors from 23 institutes of the Electrical Engineering Department. Based on a threefold learning concept comprising mathematical methods, MATLAB programming, and practical engineering, the students were required to transfer mathematical basics to algorithms in MATLAB in order to control LEGO Mindstorms robots. Toward this end, a new toolbox, called the “RWTH-Mindstorms NXT Toolbox,” was developed, which enables the robots to be controlled remotely via MATLAB from a host computer. This paper describes how the laboratory course is organized and how it induces students to think as actual engineers would in solving real-world tasks with limited resources. Evaluation results show that the project improves the students' MATLAB programming skills, enhances motivation, and enables a peer learning process.


  • First Steps into Practical Engineering for Freshman Students Using MATLAB and LEGO Mindstorms Robots, Alexander Behrens, Linus Atorf, Robert Schwann, Johannes Ballé, Thomas Herold, Aulis Telle, Acta Polytechnica: Journal of Advanced Engineering, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 44--49, June, 2008,  (BibTeX) (Download)

    Besides lectures on basic theoretical topics, contemporary teaching and learning concepts for first semester students give more and more consideration to practically motivated courses. In this context, a new first-year introductory course in practical engineering has been established in the first semester curriculum of Electrical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. Based on a threefold learning concept, programming skills in MATLAB are taught to 309 students within a full-time block course laboratory. The students are encouraged to transfer known mathematical basics to program algorithms and real-world applications performed by 100 LEGO Mindstorms robots. A new MATLAB toolbox and twofold project tasks have been developed for this purpose by a small team of supervisors. The students are supervised by over 60 tutors at 23 institutes, and are encouraged to create their own robotics applications. We describe how the laboratory motivates the students to act and think like engineers and to solve real-world issues with limited resources. The evaluation results show that the proposed practical course concept successfully boosts students’ motivation, advances their programming skills, and encourages the peer learning process.


  • Freshman Engineers Build MATLAB Powered LEGO Robots, Til Aach and Alexander Behrens, MATLAB Digest | Academic Edition, The MathWorks, vol. 2, no. 3, August, 2008, (BibTeX) (Download)

    Freshman Engineers Build MATLAB Powered LEGO Robots

    Students at RWTH Aachen University put math and signal processing theory into practice by using MATLAB and the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT education kit to build and program robots—including one that reads Morse code and another that parks itself autonomously. …


  • Studienstart als Lego-Tüftler , RWTHinsight Artikel 01/2008, (Download)

    "SOS" morst der Lego-Roboter mit einem Stift auf das Papier. Drei kurze, drei lange und nochmals drei kurze schwarze Striche. Doch anstelle hektischer Betriebsamkeit angesichts des Hilferufs schauen Martin Riedl und seine drei Kommilitonen äußerst zufrieden auf ihren selbst gebauten und programmierten Roboter:...