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Enhancing a Control Systems Design Course by Using Experiential Learning Model

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Active & Cooperative Learning in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Zahrasadat Alavi California State University, Chico

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Dr. Zahrasadat Alavi, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at California State University Chico, received her PhD in Electrical Engineering from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in May 2015. She received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. from Amirkabir University (Polytechnic of Tehran) with honors in 2007 and 2009 respectively, and another Master of Science from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) in Electrical Engineering in 2012. She was an Assistant Professor at the Electrical and Instrumentation Department of Los Medanos College during 2016-2017 academic year. She was an Adjunct Faculty at San Francisco State University and Diablo Valley College during 2015-2016 academic year, and an instructor at UWM from January 2014 until May 2015. She has taught Control Systems Design course several times, and has adapted different methods of teaching in her classes. She is a member of IEEE, and has several publications in IEEE, ASEE and peer reviewed journals. Her primary research interests include engineering education, advanced control systems, and simulation of linear and nonlinear systems. She also conducts research in the area of digital image processing and analysis and was awarded an NSF-MRI grant to establish an FTIR Spectroscopic Imaging Lab at CSU Chico .

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Kathleen Meehan California State University, Chico

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Kathleen Meehan earned her B.S. in electrical engineering from Manhattan College and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. After graduation, she worked at Lytel, Inc., Polaroid Corporation, and Biocontrol Technology. She moved into academia full-time in 1997 and worked at the University of Denver, West Virginia University, and Virginia Tech. From 2013 to 2017, she was the director of the Electronics and Electrical Engineering program at University of Glasgow-University of Electronic Science and Technology of China. Dr. Meehan became chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the California State University, Chico in 2017. She is actively involved in the development of mobile hands-on pedagogy as well as research on other topics in STEM education, the synthesis and characterization of nanoscale materials, and fermentation processes.

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In this paper, authors present the outcomes of implementing an experiential learning model to explore innovative teaching pedagogy in CSU Chico EECE 482 Control Systems Design course. To reach this goal, multiple projects and demonstrations are designed to engage students of senior level Control Systems Design course in actual engineering problems to develop their practical engineering skills and to enhance students’ connection with junior level courses such as microcontroller programming. By utilizing the available resources within the College of Engineering at CSU Chico, multiple projects were developed for the Control Systems Design course. These projects benefited from existing laboratory spaces and equipment, which included a wind tunnel and a solar photovoltaic array at the Energy Systems Lab and a water flume at the Fluid and Mechanics Lab. The control systems were implemented using either the TM4C123GH6PM, the Tiva™ C Series microprocessor, which students use in the two required embedded systems courses in the curriculum, or an Arduino microcontroller.

Prior to the assignment of the projects, the properties of several control algorithms were discussed during the course lectures. Hands-on demonstrations of the algorithms were performed using a Quanser QUBE Servo 2 inverted pendulum. To continue this learning, students were asked to form small teams and to select a project from a list provided by the course instructor. Examples of three projects will be described in this paper. In the first project, a controller was designed to optimize the performance of the wind turbine by maximizing the power delivered to the wind turbine load. The second project was an optimization of performance of a motorized solar photovoltaic panel where students designed a sun tracker, a proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controller to maximize the power generated by the solar panel by adjusting the angle of the panel with respect to the solar irradiance. The third project was a control system to fix the lateral position of a boat in the water flume while it was navigating along the flume to prevent contacts with the walls. Finally, a discussion on how the set of demonstrations and the design projects boosted students’ interest in the Control Systems Design course. An assessment has been conducted to evaluate the impact of the demonstrations, labs and project on the student learning outcomes and the depth of their understanding of key concepts in comparison to that obtained in the previous semesters. The assessment results show that the inclusion of the demonstrations, labs and design projects in the course resulted in increased mastery of control theory concepts through the visualization and hands-on experience and that students were better able to relate theory to practice.

Alavi, Z., & Meehan, K. (2019, June), Enhancing a Control Systems Design Course by Using Experiential Learning Model Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32744

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