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A Multivariable Hot and Cold Water Tank for an Undergraduate Control Engineering Laboratory

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Haryana Yosef Thomas Calvin College

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My name is Haryana Thomas and I'm a chemical engineering undergraduate student at Calvin college. After graduation, I hope to go to graduate school to pursue a PHD in process systems engineering.

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Charles E. Holwerda Calvin College


Jeremy VanAntwerp Calvin College Orcid 16x16

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Professor of Engineering at Calvin College.

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Most undergraduate control courses emphasize a single-input, single-output (SISO) perspective. However, in many industrial applications, processes and plants have significant interactions between measured variables, which means a multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) approach is more appropriate. This paper describes the creation of a bench-scale multivariable control experiment for an undergraduate control engineering laboratory course.

The experiment consists of hot and cold running water that mix in a 5L clear plastic tank with an open drain. The system measures incoming water temperature on the hot and cold lines, incoming water flow rates, and the height and temperature of water in the tank. There are actuation valves on the hot and cold water lines. The objective for the lab is for students to experiment with different types of controllers and different control strategies to control the level and temperature of the water in the tank independently. The physical design of the apparatus is described in complete detail in section one. This highlights the ways that selection of one component can limit or constrain the selection of other components or the performance of the overall system. In particular, the tank was sized to have an open-loop response time of about 5 minutes. Section one concludes with a mathematical model of the process, which shows that the process is nonlinear.

Section two describes the data acquisition and command hardware, which is based on a National Instruments compact data acquisition board (c-DAQ). Section three describes the software environment in which students implement independent PID control loops (that is, a decentralized control strategy), cascade control, and multivariable model predictive control. Section three also describes the different options and choices available between Matlab, Simulink, and LabView. Section four presents experimental results and section five presents conclusions.

The hardware budget was about US$ 6000. It is hoped that this design will inspire other undergraduate educators to included advanced control techniques in standard undergraduate control classes.

Thomas, H. Y., & Holwerda, C. E., & VanAntwerp, J. (2019, June), A Multivariable Hot and Cold Water Tank for an Undergraduate Control Engineering Laboratory Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31977

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