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A Multidisciplinary Graduate Course In Building Computer Controlled Machines

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Course Innovation

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.71.1 - 12.71.8



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Paper Authors


Hugh Jack Grand Valley State University Orcid 16x16

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Hugh Jack is the Chair of Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids Michigan. His interests include controls, automation, and open source software.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Multidisciplinary Graduate Course in Building Computer Controlled Machines


A new course EGR 604 - Implementation3 has been added to the core of the graduate program at Grand Valley State University and taught for the first time the fall of 2006. This course is typically taken in the first semester of the graduate program by students in all disciplines, including Electri- cal and Computer Engineering (ECE), Mechanical Engineering (ME), and Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering (PDM). The purpose of the course is to prepare graduate students to work with complex systems that cross many disciplinary boundaries. The course is very practical by nature, laying the groundwork for a detailed theoretical analysis in subsequent courses.

The course covers a variety of topics in mechanical, manufacturing, electrical and computer engi- neering. Early in the course the emphasis is on tutorials and simple build and test activities. All students do these activities, regardless of discipline. Later in the course they work on mixed mul- tidisciplinary teams to develop patentable (commercial) products. In general each student will be familiar with half of the topics and be unfamiliar with the remainder.

The ECE topics taught in the course tend to focus on motor control systems and microcontrollers. The primary microcontroller platform used in the course is the Atmel AVR butterfly board. The $20 prototyping board is easy to program in C with a wide variety of built-in features such as an LCD display, speaker, light/temperature sensors, joystick, and flash memory. For many of the mechanical and manufacturing students this is their first exposure to computer controlled devices.

The ME and PDM topics taught in the course tend to focus on design, use of the machine shop (mills, lathes, welding, Computer Numerical Controlled mills) to produce parts, metrology, mech- anism design, dynamics, motion control, solid modeling, and machine design. For many of the electrical and computer engineering students this is their first exposure to the production and application of large parts and assemblies.

On the surface the addition of this course appears to pull the graduate program down to the under- graduate level. However, it will allow the graduate students to have a leveling experience that will prepare them for success in later courses, and let those courses progress to advanced topics faster than before.


It is expected that the bearer of an engineering degree would be able to apply the theoretical prin- ciples of science to solve practical problems. Anecdotally we have found that a major challenge in the graduate program is from students coming from other institutions with variable levels of knowledge and skill in communication, theory, and practical issues. Although we could have cho-

Jack, H. (2007, June), A Multidisciplinary Graduate Course In Building Computer Controlled Machines Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2918

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