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A Design Project For A Second Course In Controls

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.12.1 - 2.12.6

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Brian Armstrong

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A Design Project for a Second Course in Controls

Brian Armstrong Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, P.O. 784, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201, U.S.A.

Abstract It can be challenging in a course on feedback controls, to implement a design project in the wider sense of open-ended questions and student exploration. While it is straightforward to assign the task of ‘designing’ a controller by tuning the gains to achieve specified performance, such a task is design in a narrow sense. To broaden the scope of design, a project was implemented with the objectives of: 1. Requiring the student to select the controller structure (PI, PID, state space, etc.), implementation (continuous or sampled) and parameters (such as sampling time); 2. Removing classroom-environment cues as to what type of controller will meet the specifications; 3. Increasing the degree to which the design process is iterative, exploring the capabilities and limitations of alternative controller structures. The project has been used with a second semester course control theory, taken by seniors and first year graduate students. 1. Introduction Toward the objectives of broadening the scope of a design project and removing classroom- environment cues suggesting what approach to take, a project has been developed for a second controls course in which the students are tasked to design many feedback controllers to meet a variety of challenges. Environmental cues about which controller or design technique to apply have been removed by introducing a diversity of performance challenges and having the student select the control structure and design tools to be applied to each one. As a novel pedagogical tool which met with some success, students are allowed to repeatedly submit their designs for evaluation and to improve upon those which did not meet the specification. While at first blush this seems to allow a poor quality of work and a low level of self-evaluation, in fact it had the effect of raising the bar: 100% success is a reasonable expectation when iteration is allowed. None of ten groups achieved even 80% success in the first iteration. Some of the design challenges are formidable, and indeed, even to implement a full and correct suite of test routines has proven a significant challenge. The iterative evaluation was supported by automatic checking of the designs. The students emailed in their designs and MATLAB code was written to check each design against the criteria (see format below).

Armstrong, B. (1997, June), A Design Project For A Second Course In Controls Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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