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Haptic paddles-low-cost one-degree-of-freedom force feedback devices-have been used with great success at several universities throughout the US to teach the basic concepts of dynamic systems and physical human-robot interaction (pHRI) to students. The ETHZ haptic paddle was developed for a new pHRI course offered in the undergraduate Mechatronics Focus track of the Mechanical Engineering curriculum at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Twenty students engaged in this 2-h weekly lecture over the 14 weeks of the Autumn 2011 semester, complemented by a weekly 2-h laboratory session with the ETHZ haptic paddle. In pairs, students worked through three common sets of experiments before embarking on a specialization project that investigated one of several advanced topics such as impedance control with force feedback, admittance control, the effect of velocity estimation on stability, or electromyographic control. For these projects, students received additional hardware, including force sensors, electrooptical encoders or high-performance data acquisition cards. The learning objectives were developed in the context of an accompanying faculty development program at ETH Zurich; a set of interactive sequences and the oral exam were explicitly aligned to these learning objectives. The outcomes of the specialization project presentations and oral exams, and a student evaluation of the course, demonstrated that the ETHZ haptic paddle is a valuable tool that allows students to quite literally grasp abstract principles such as mechanical impedance, passivity, and human factors and helps students create a tangible link between theory and practice in the highly interdisciplinary field of pHRI.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2013