Robotic projects are rite of passage in Car Lab

Students in the Car Lab course spend a semester building real-world electronic systems, like a robotic device that plays soccer. (Video by Evelyn Tu for the Office of Engineering Communications)

Car Lab — the Princeton course that serves as a rite of passage for electrical engineering students — has evolved well beyond its early days of self-driving model cars. Officially titled "Building Real Systems," Car Lab requires all students to apply their knowledge to assembling a robotic project.

The course is offered each spring. In 2016, the course's final demonstration was a circus of small robots built by two-person teams: a skeet-shooting bot; a bot that balances on a giant beach ball; a bot that responds to spoken commands and barks like a dog; and a soccer-playing bot.

"Anything that students can think of is fair game," said electrical engineering professor Andrew Houck, a former participant who is now one of the class's two instructors, along with Antoine Kahn, the Stephen C. Macaleer '63 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and vice dean of engineering.

"This is why people want to become engineers," said Houck, a member of the Class of 2000. "You take an idea, and you turn it into reality."