David R. Doucette, Gunter W. Georgi, and Lorcan M. Folan, Polytechnic University
Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition
Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education. Reprinted with the permission of ASEE
Like many other schools, Polytechnic University has developed robotics projects using commercial products such as Robolab. for its Freshman Engineering course. These projects have been well-received by many students1. However, some Freshman students have commented that they wanted something more related to Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. To meet this demand, we have developed a project for digital logic design that uses a model train set. The project uses a train layout with several express and local tracks, with paths blocked with freight cars. The student uses sensor inputs from the layout to determine which track sections are occupied, and to find a path for a locomotive to follow from one end of the layout to the other. Digital logic is used to find the path, and to actually throw train switches to have the locomotive follow the proper route. Students are familiar with model trains, and actually driving the switches with the logic they design captures their interest. The basics of simple logic design can be covered quickly and implemented using LabVIEW® without getting into circuit analysis. The track layout that is employed provides a challenge in finding the optimal route, but at the same time is not overwhelming to the student. It can also be the basis for a lively design competition.