Students are challenged to design and program Arduino-controlled robots that behave like simple versions of the automated guided vehicles engineers design for real-world applications. Using Arduino microcontroller boards, infrared (IR) sensors, servomotors, attachable wheels and plastic containers (for the robot frame), they make "Lunch-Bots." Teams program the robots to meet the project constraints—to follow a line of reflective tape, make turns and stop at a designated spot to deliver a package, such as a sandwich or pizza slice. They read and interpret analog voltages from IR sensors, compare how infrared reflects differently off different materials, and write Arduino programs that use IR sensor inputs to control the servomotors. Through the process, students experience the entire engineering design process. Pre/post-quizzes and coding help documents are provided.
Students learn about infrared energy and how it is used to sense the surrounding environment. They review where infrared falls on the electromagnetic spectrum and learn how infrared sensors work, as well as various ways engineers and scientists create and apply infrared technology to study science and collect information for security, communications, medical, research and other purposes. Pre/post-quizzes and a take-home assignment are provided. Learning the concepts prepares students to conduct the associated activity in which they design and program Arduino-controlled robots that use IR sensors to follow a line and make designated stops, much like the automated guided vehicles used in industry and commerce.