Report Writing for IAR Practicals

The most important content to include is: your main design decisions and the reasons behind them; a clear description of your control programme; and your evaluation of how well your robot succeeds at its task, including possible improvements.

It may help to think of this as a (short) equivalent of how robot projects are reported in scientific papers, for example, like this.

Here's an outline of what your report should contain:

Title: A 4-12 word title that would allow an unfamiliar reader to know what your report is about.

Abstract: You MUST preface the report with a 100-200 word summary of what it contains. This is usually easier to write when you have finished the report. It should very briefly explain the task, the approach used, the results and the conclusions drawn. Avoid making entirely generic statements that could apply to almost anything, e.g., (BAD) "This report describes the programming of a robot to perform a task. We describe the design decisions and outline the control program, then explain the results and possible improvements". Instead make it specific to what you have done, e.g., (GOOD) "We have built a robot capable of searching for and recognising special locations in a lab environment. It uses two IR sensors to avoid obstacles, and three light sensors to recognise target locations. We implement a subsumption control architecture. The robot was tested in five time trials and was able to locate an average of 4 locations within that time. The main limitation was that our robot was unable to reliably plan its route to the next location but relied on random search".

Introduction: This should explain the task, and give an overview of how you approached it. In a normal scientific report this would include reference to previous work (your own or others). You are not required in this case to refer to other work (although you may wish to do so if for example something you read about influenced your approach to the task). So this section is likely to be quite short.

Methods: A good rule of thumb here is that someone reading your report should be able to replicate your approach. So you need to provide a good description. For the control program you should provide a flow diagram or pseudo-code description, and explain the reasoning that led to this solution. This is likely to be the longest section of the report. Include your code in an appendix.

Results: This should contain some quantitative evaluation of the robot performance. For example:  that in a test of ten minutes it got stuck 3 times, always in the same place, but could follow walls without deviating more than 5 cms away at any time. If your robot is not capable of doing the final task, you should evaluate what it does do correctly, and try to analyse what it does wrong. The reader should be left with an accurate understanding of exactly what your robot is capable of, even if this is not as good as you hoped.

Discussion: Start by summarising the results, and giving your evaluation of how well it works. Explain what you think were the most successful elements of your approach, and what was less successful. Include ideas about how the system could be improved.

Length: The short reports should be less than 1000 words long. The final report should be no more than 3000 words long. It can be shorter if you think that you can do a satisfactory description in fewer words.

Last update: September 13, 2012.

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