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Affordable Lab Kit for Controls Education

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Student Division Poster Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.143.1 - 24.143.3



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Paper Authors


Rebecca Marie Reck University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Rebecca M. Reck just started Ph.D. studies in systems engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed her master’s degree in electrical engineering at Iowa State University during her eight years at Rockwell Collins and her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with a mathematics minor, from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2005.

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Affordable Lab Kit for Controls Education (Poster)This research will develop an affordable laboratory kit for multi-disciplinary controls educationat the undergraduate and graduate levels. The literature shows that laboratory experiments helpstudents understand and apply course material. The goal was to design each kit to be assembledfor under $100 while replicating the educational functionality of a lab bench one finds in auniversity controls laboratory. This kit will also replace expensive equipment with an affordablealternative that can be easily shipped anywhere in the world and used by students with anycomputer. This greatly enhances the accessibility of the laboratory experience to students inbudget-strapped campus laboratories and those participating in distance education or massiveopen online courses.My kit design initially consists of a Raspberry Pi (a fully functional ARM-based computer that isthe size of a deck of cards), a servo motor, and the various components required for the first labexercises. These are off-the-shelf components, selected to limit cost. The development of theinverted pendulum control kit was developed in three steps: (1) integration of motors, RaspberryPi, and moving parts; (2) integration of sensors and data capture; and (3) implementation of thecontroller.(1) A rotary servo is used to support the double-inverted pendulum lab exercises. The input isdriven from an output of the Raspberry Pi board through an external circuit. Then, the physicalattachments were designed to work within the technical limits of the hardware.(2) In the inverted pendulum exercise, the servo itself senses and reports its own position while acircular potentiometer reports the pendulum’s position. The output of each of these sensors istransmitted back to the Raspberry Pi for display to the user and input to the control law.Software tools such as MATLAB and LabVIEW were used to assist in the data collection anddisplay to the user.(3) The control laws used to control the inverted pendulum were developed to determine the bestway to implement the algorithm on the Raspberry Pi. Multiple techniques for implementation ofthe control law were explored including model based development with MATLAB andSimulink, implementation in C++ or Python, and implementation in LabVIEW. This processaids in the development of the pre-lab assignments and lab instructions for the students.Through testing was performed after each step to ensure feasibility of the implementation.

Reck, R. M. (2014, June), Affordable Lab Kit for Controls Education Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20034

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