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A Low-Cost Dynamic Plant and Data Acquisition System for Laboratory Courses on Control Systems and Mechatronics

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Laboratory Innovations

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.65.1 - 23.65.13



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Paper Authors


Nicholas Langhoff San Francisco State University

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Nick P. Rentsch received the B.S. degree from San Francisco State University in 2008 in electrical engineering. He is now a candidate for the M.S. degree in electrical engineering at San Francisco State University. Since 2009, he has concurrently served as an adjunct professor of physics at Skyline College and electrical engineering at San Francisco State University. His research interests include embedded control, real-time signal processing, and sound synthesis and electronics for musical applications.

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Sergey Dusheyko San Francisco State University

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I received my BS in mechanical engineering from San Francisco State University in the Summer of 2013. During my time there I worked on two projects as a member of the Biomechatronics Research Laboratory. On these projects I was responsible, in part, for mechanical design and three dimensional model rendering. Since graduating I have worked as a mechanical engineer for a hydrogeological technology start up.

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McKenzie Suzanne Campagna San Francisco State University


Ozkan Celik San Francisco State University

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Ozkan Celik joined San Francisco State University (SFSU) in August 2011 as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. At SFSU, he is directing the Biomechatronics Research Lab (BRL) and teaching control systems and mechatronics courses. He completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Rice University in May 2011. He was a research and teaching assistant in the Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces (MAHI) Lab at Rice University between 2006 and 2011. His research interests include robotics, haptics, mechatronics and system identification, particularly as applied to human sensorimotor control system modeling and augmentation, robotic rehabilitation, and development of novel tools and methods for engineering education. He was a recipient of the Best Paper Award at IEEE World Haptics Conference in 2011 (WHC 2011).

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A Low-Cost Dynamic Plant and Data Acquisition System for Laboratory Courses on Control Systems and MechatronicsHands-on experiments for upper-level engineering courses greatly enhance student enthusiasm,core-concept comprehension and retention. Given the high cost of commercial instructionalcontrol systems lab equipment, we sought to provide an affordable, robust solution to hands-onlearning, without compromising technical caliber. To this end, we’ve developed a low-costhaptic paddle plant and data acquisition system for control systems and mechatronics laboratorycourses. A haptic paddle is a single degree-of-freedom force-feedback joystick that is well-suitedto be used as a test bed for both basic and advanced concepts in system dynamics, control theory,mechatronics, haptics and enables students to physically interact with simulated dynamicsystems.The first haptic paddle was developed at Stanford University, and different variations of thedevice have since been developed and adopted at various institutions. Made almost entirely fromdurable, laser-cut acrylic, our haptic paddle presents a novel modular hardware design that iseasily and inexpensively manufactured (see Figure 1). The design incorporates a timing belt-drive transmission between the motor and the handle, offering a significant advantage over priorhaptic paddle designs in terms of robustness and variety of additional control scenarios. Itprovides zero slip, continuous rotation and robustness against mechanical failure under routinestudent use as opposed to earlier designs with cable-drive or friction-drive transmissions withlimited angular range of motion and robustness.Angular displacement measurement of the handle is accomplished with a permanent magnetfixed to the handle’s shaft and an inexpensive Hall effect sensor mounted in direct proximity.This approach avoids rotational friction and wear and enables a measurement solution for thesystem’s infinite angular range.An Arduino development board is used for data acquisition and control. Integrating this widelyknown platform will assist novice programmers, yet also will help elevate the Arduinocommunity from the hobbyist realm to more complex control systems applications. Furthermore,at only $30, the Arduino development board is an extremely affordable data acquisition solution,a significant portion of the cost that was left unresolved in earlier haptic paddle designs.To make our haptic paddle a complete teaching package, we are developing laboratory exercisesin control theory, mechatronics, and haptics. These assignments include sensor calibration, motorsystem identification, open-loop and closed-loop plant response, constant speed control, invertedpendulum control and haptic interaction experiments including virtual springs, virtual walls,viscous friction fields, and teleoperation with two haptic paddles.We sought to develop an inexpensive, robust control plant for mechatronics and control systemslab use. With Arduino-based data acquisition, a low-cost sensor, and inexpensive hardwaremanufacturing, the build cost for our haptic paddle plant totals to approximately $150. Thisserves as an affordable and accessible solution to engineering departments seeking to outfit acontrol systems or mechatronics laboratory classrooms with more setups per student forsignificantly increased opportunity for hands-on learning experience.Figure 1. Our haptic paddle demonstrates a modular design using laser-cut acrylic that is easily and inexpensively manufactured. It incorporates a timing belt-drive transmission between the motor and the handle, providing robustness and enabling a variety of control scenarios. It includes an Arduino-based solution to data acquisition and motor drive electronics and is powered by a standard computer power supply (not shown).

Langhoff, N., & Dusheyko, S., & Campagna, M. S., & Celik, O. (2013, June), A Low-Cost Dynamic Plant and Data Acquisition System for Laboratory Courses on Control Systems and Mechatronics Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19079

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