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Computer Animation: A Visualization Tool For Dynamic System Simulations

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.105.1 - 2.105.10



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Paper Authors

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Kevin Wedeward

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E. Eugene Mitchell

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George E. Piper

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John Watkins

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

Session 1620

COMPUTER ANIMATION: A VISUALIZATION TOOL FOR DYNAMIC SYSTEM SIMULATIONS John Watkins, George Piper, Kevin Wedeward, E. Eugene Mitchell Department of Weapons & Systems Engineering U.S. Naval Academy Annapolis, MD 21402-5025

ABSTRACT This paper describes how animation is being utilized to teach system dynamics and control in the Systems Engineering Department at the United States Naval Academy. Included is a description of how animation has been incorporated into the classroom using the computer software tools VisSim and MATLAB. The animation capabilities of these software tools are demonstrated with several classroom exercises.

INTRODUCTION Today's students are exposed to multimedia in all aspects of their lives, from MTV to the World Wide Web. They have become accustomed to receiving information in this manner. Multimedia is also finding its way in to computer simulation. Students get excited about commercially available entertainment programs such as Microsoft's Flight Simulator and Maxis' SimCity which contain realistic, highly-detailed simulations. Educators are taking advantage of these animated simulations and incorporating them into to their classrooms. Computer simulation is also being used to enhance students understanding of dynamic systems [1]. Incorporating animation with simulation not only increases the student’s understanding, it captures their attention and increases their motivation. Animation bridges the gap between abstract mathematical equations and the physical behavior of the system.

In the past, computer simulation and animation required the use of conventional programming languages such as FORTRAN, PASCAL, or C. While this approach allows for effective dynamic simulation, it is easy for the user to get sidetracked with programming issues and lose sight of the original problem. Animation, in particular, requires a specialized knowledge of the computer platform. With today's windowing environment, there are an increasing number of commercially available programs that allow the user to easily develop simulations of general dynamic systems. These programs include MATLAB, Matrix-X, Control-C, and VisSim. Computer simulation programs encourage students to explore complex and realistic systems. The interactive environment and graphic capability of these programs provides instant feedback to the students. In addition to dynamic simulation capabilities, many of these programs allow the user to incorporate animation into the simulation.

Animation is being incorporated into the systems engineering courses at the United States Naval Academy to help teach system dynamics and control. The Systems Engineering curriculum at the United States Naval Academy focuses mainly on linear systems theory, feedback control, and mechatronics. It is a four year, undergraduate, ABET accredited, engineering program. Throughout the curriculum students learn how to model, simulate, and design various types of control systems. The computer software the students use to analyze, simulate, and implement

Wedeward, K., & Mitchell, E. E., & Piper, G. E., & Watkins, J. (1997, June), Computer Animation: A Visualization Tool For Dynamic System Simulations Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6456

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