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Control System Plant Simulator: A Framework For Hardware In The Loop Simulation

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Computer Simulation and Animation II

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.336.1 - 13.336.12



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Paper Authors


David Chandler Rochester Institute of Technology

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Dave Chandler was born in Camarillo, California, on October 27, 1981. He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2004 with highest honors and a bachelors of science in Computer Engineering. Upon graduation he began his career as a software engineer at Harris RFCD, working on software defined military radio systems. He completed a Masters of Science degree in Computer Engineering from RIT in 2007. He currently lives with his wife Cheri in Rochester NY.

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James Vallino Rochester Institute of Technology

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James R. Vallino is an Associate Professor in the Department of Software Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology. He has been actively involved in the development of this program, the first undergraduate software engineering program in the United States. This involvement included bringing active learning and problem-based
learning into the curriculum, developing an inter-disciplinary course sequence in real-time and embedded systems, and guiding the program through its ABET accreditation. Prior to RIT,
Dr. Vallino had seventeen years of software development experience in industry, followed by his PhD studies in Computer Science at the
University of Rochester. His research interests include pedagogy for software engineering education, software design especially in the
real-time and embedded systems area, and model-based development methodologies.

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

Control System Plant Simulator: A Framework for Hardware-In-The-Loop Simulation


Control systems courses are common in undergraduate engineering programs. These courses focus on the design of the controller’s mathematical model but rarely have students explore the practical issues of implementing the controller. Real-time and embedded systems courses focus on these practical issues with students implementing controllers for simplified Hardware-in-the- Loop plants such as a digital servo motor. Designing controllers for complex physical plants is difficult due to prohibitive costs or the risk of accidents caused by faulty controllers. These difficulties can be overcome if a simulator replaces the hardware-in-the-loop physical plant.

We designed and implemented the Control System Plant Simulator (CSPS) as a flexible framework for simulating plant models in control system implementation projects. The framework allows the user to model continuous and discrete plants defined as transfer functions or systems of state-space equations. This paper describes the design of the CSPS framework by highlighting the expansion and modification flexibility it provides with its operating system, non-real-time user interface, and physical device abstraction layers. The CSPS framework has advantages over commercial tools that can provide a hardware-in-the-loop plant simulation. The framework’s scope of usage is much narrower than the commercial tools making it easier to learn how to use and modify. Also, we distribute the framework as an open-source project making it readily available for use in any course without licensing, and ensuring that deeper and more complex customizations are possible. The paper concludes with a discussion of our successful experience using the framework in real-time systems course projects, and porting to two operating environments (standard Windows XP and Ardence RTX Real-Time Extensions for Windows), two user interfaces (C-based text, Visual Basic GUI), and two data acquisition devices (USB data acquisition, simulated multi-channel IO device).


The popularity and importance of automated controllers has grown rapidly over the past few decades1. The subject of Control systems has grown in importance in education as well. There are numerous challenges educators must face when teaching a control systems course. Students learn far more from their studies when they have an actual laboratory experiment to help relate the abstract concepts of engineering to real life design problems2. While simplified physical systems such as the inverted pendulum or the digital servo are common in academic environments, design for more practical systems is difficult due to the prohibitive costs or danger associated with the equipment involved3.

Simulation of the entire system enables the designer to see what is going to happen before spending considerable effort implementing a design or putting expensive equipment – and potentially human life – at risk with an untested controller. However, one cannot ignore the

Chandler, D., & Vallino, J. (2008, June), Control System Plant Simulator: A Framework For Hardware In The Loop Simulation Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3358

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