New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
Most ABET accredited undergraduate mechanical engineering programs have some sort of controls course and accompanying laboratory experience. The goal of most of these laboratory courses is to give the students hands-on experience working with hardware and implementing control algorithms while learning the theory in an accompanying lecture course. Popular hardware and software suppliers for these types of laboratories include Quanser and Educational Control Products. However, these education-focused products do not expose the students to systems that practicing controls engineers actually use. Furthermore, the “black box” nature of the conventional hardware masks the nature of the underlying control systems and their use misses the opportunity to show both how and why control systems function. Finally, although such systems enable the practice of advanced feedback control, they don’t enable the practice and understanding of basic on-off or bang-bang control that is common in industry. When we redesigned our undergraduate controls course at the University of Delaware, our goal was to enhance our library of realistic hardware and software systems while focusing on exposure to different hardware and software that students would potentially encounter should they choose to pursue controls engineering in their careers. This paper is presented as a case study that describes our approach and presents preliminary data on effectiveness of the redesigned course. The goal is to provide a template for other universities to follow to achieve similarly positive outcomes in terms of student engagement and retention of material.
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