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A Technology Approach To Magnetic Levitation

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.66.1 - 5.66.12



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Paper Authors

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Ronald C. Matusiak

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D. Steven Barker

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

Session 3649

A Technology Approach to Magnetic Levitation Steven Barker, Ron Matusiak Buffalo State College


A magnetic levitation (maglev) project is described with two major goals in mind: (1) to describe the maglev design process using an engineering-technology approach, and (2) to compare the engineering-technology and engineering-design approaches. These descriptions are intended to yield working maglev systems which can be built by engineering technology students while simultaneously encouraging interest in the more abstract approaches to classical feedback control theory. A set of laboratory experiments derived from the maglev system are presented which can be used by engineering technology students. Circuit diagrams and equipment lists coupled with verbal descriptions are intended to yield inexpensive magnetic levitation systems. Both analog and digital control strategies are also included.


A magnetic levitation demonstration can be a powerful motivation for the study of feedback control systems, perhaps because there is something very special about magnetic levitation. Middle school children have shown great interest in maglev design contests.1,2 The transportation industry has acknowledged the real possibility of magnetically levitated trains in the near future.3 Several excellent web sites have been devoted to the subject of magnetic levitation.4,5,6 An inexpensive maglev science kit is commercially available.7 Educational systems that allow students to investigate magnetic levitation are available but they are expensive.8 Published descriptions using the classical-engineering approach are available, but they may be beyond the technical ability of many beginning engineering technology students.9 Our description of magnetic levitation attempts to make magnetic levitation more accessible while simultaneously promoting an appreciation of the more abstract approaches to the subject.

A magnetic levitation demonstration has been used for several years in the Engineering Technology program at Buffalo State College. The hardware is inexpensive, and the analog proportional-derivative (PD) controller is easy to design and adjust using a "technology approach". Our paper focuses on inexpensive hardware with the purpose of encouraging those in budget-conscious schools to build maglev systems. The "technology approach" is described, not as a substitute for the "classical-engineering approach," but as one alternative for our readers who have not yet acquired the abstract engineering skills typically employed in the rigorous design of a feedback system. Digital control of the magnetic levitation system utilizing popular hardware and software is also discussed as an alternative to analog control. When a valid set of control gains is unknown, digital techniques can sometimes be used to quickly determine the feasibility of a particular combination of hardware components. We suggest several laboratory experiments, based on this magnetic levitation hardware, that are suitable for use in a control system course. The focus on experiments that require feedback for stability should be appealing to those who continually search for laboratory experiments that are motivational and inexpensive.

Matusiak, R. C., & Barker, D. S. (2000, June), A Technology Approach To Magnetic Levitation Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8768

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