Taking Dynamic Systems And Controls Laboratories One Step Further
2001 Annual Conference Proceedings
The past decade has been a time of significant changes for many fields of engineering, including control systems engineering. Firstly, a paradigm shift has been occurring with regard to the kind of engineering graduates needed by today's fast-paced global economy. Secondly, the price to performance ratio of computing power has been rapidly decreasing. As a result, when faculty in the respective Departments recently decided to incorporate laboratory experiments into the lecture-only Electrical
... e-only Electrical Engineering (EE) Controls course and to update the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Controls laboratory course experiments, the opportunity arose to develop a Dynamic Systems and Controls laboratory using state-of-the-art equipment to provide a present-day-relevant education. In particular, we aimed to enhance student learning of a model-based, simulation-oriented approach to control systems analysis, design and development, and to provide them with the experience of implementing Digital Signal Processor (DSP)-based controllers. In 1999, we received funding from the National Science Foundation's Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement program to develop such a laboratory with the following expected student outcomes. First, students will become adept at using common industry software packages for system modeling, analysis, control design and simulation. Second, students will learn how to use common industry measurement instruments as well as techniques for frequency-domain modeling, analysis and control design purposes when working with hardware. Third, and most importantly, they will gain experience in using a DSP development system to implement the control algorithms they have designed for the given electromechanical systems. The last item distinguishes this project from other recent similar projects that allow students to experiment with 'canned' DSP-based controllers but do not let them gain an understanding of, and hands-on experience with, the final implementation step in the control design and development process. Such an omission, we feel, results in a less than adequate preparation of today's student. Moreover, the cost and effort of taking students that one step further is decreasing as less expensive, more powerful, and easier to use development tools come on the market. This paper details the objectives and accomplishments of this project and discusses preliminary findings on how this project impacts student learning for the two Controls courses.