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An Intuitive Approach to Teaching Key Concepts in Control Systems

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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

Innovations in Electrical Engineering Courses

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.173.1 - 24.173.32



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Paper Authors

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Daniel Raviv Florida Atlantic University

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George Jonathan Roskovich Florida Atlantic University

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An intuitive approach to teaching key concepts in Control Systems Today’s students have grown up with interactive media such as Google, YouTube,Facebook, and interactive video games which exposed them to information presented in a veryvisual and intuitive way. They are used to instantaneous answers and expect instant justificationfor why a subject is important and an explanation for immediate potential use. In order to adaptto students’ continually changing learning styles, efforts must be made to further modifyteaching methods that include more relevance in visual, intuitive, and interactive ways. This paper focuses on introducing difficult concepts in a senior level course titled“Control systems 1” in a way that students can relate to. The goal is to establish students’intuition, adjusting to their visual relevance-based learning styles before focusing onmathematical understanding. Using everyday life analogy based examples allows them todevelop a core understanding of the subject matter leading to an easier transition to the deepmathematical analysis. An example of this teaching style is used to describe “time response.” It starts with threetypes of drivers trying to change lanes, a slow driver, a drunk driver and a good driver. The slowdriver takes too long to arrive at the desired position while the drunk driver is constantlyovercorrecting resulting in a long settling time. The good driver, however, arrives at hisdestination quickly minimizing the error as the car approaches the center of the new lane. Agraphic is displayed showing the behavior of the three cars with respect to the road. It is thenexplained that the different driver-car systems represent different time responses i.e. overdamped, under damped, and critically damped. Upon further examination of the graph, theconcepts of overshoot, undershoot, and settling time are introduced. This provides students withfamiliar scenarios along with mnemonics for remembering the attributes of time response. Additional methods include class demonstrations, presentations of short videos, classexperiments, as well as questions, riddles, and brain teasers. To instill positive reinforcement,students are required to create their own visual and intuitive examples of key concepts usinganalogies. Efforts are also being made to explain how to use MATLAB interactively. At present, we have applied a small scale assessment by interacting with students toreceive their feedback. An anonymous pole was created to gauge whether students were morereceptive to the methods described in this abstract vs. traditional methods that aim to createintuition by starting with mathematical procedure. The success has also been gaged by examplesprovided by students. When prompted to develop examples on their own, they havedemonstrated clear understanding of difficult concepts. As visualization is the goal, the resultshave been promising. Students not only have anonymously praised the method, they havedemonstrated its effectiveness.

Raviv, D., & Roskovich, G. J. (2014, June), An Intuitive Approach to Teaching Key Concepts in Control Systems Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20064

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