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International Collaboration In An Undergraduate Control Systems Course

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Faculty & Program Exchanges: Internationalizing, Collaborations, Interactions

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Page Count


Page Numbers

15.795.1 - 15.795.12

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Paper Authors


Richard Hill University of Detroit Mercy

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Richard C. Hill received the B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering, summa cum laude, from the University of Southern California in 1998, and the M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000. From 2000 to 2002, he worked at Lockheed Martin Corporation on satellite attitude determination and control. He then spent two years as a high school math and science teacher. In 2008 he received the Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering and the M.A. degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 2008 Dr. Hill joined the faculty of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Detroit Mercy. His research interests lie in the control and diagnosis of discrete-event systems, modular and hierarchical control, nonlinear control, and engineering education.

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Patricia Pena Federal University of Minas Gerais

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Patrícia N. Pena received the B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical Engineering from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil, in 2000 and 2002, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), Florianópolis, SC, Brazil, in 2007. She spent the school year 2005 to 2006 in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department (EECS), University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, doing part of her doctoral research, as a visiting scholar. In June 2008, she became a Professor of the Departamento de Engenharia Eletrônica (DELT), Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. Her research interests include discrete-event systems, supervisory control and its applications to manufacturing. She is also interested in industrial process control.

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

International Collaboration in an Undergraduate Control Systems Course


This paper presents the results of a collaborative group project involving teams of students from the University of Detroit Mercy in the United States and the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil that took place during the summer of 2009. This assignment was given as part of existing undergraduate control systems courses offered at the participating universities. As these are existing courses that are currently required in the respective curricula, students were not required to take an extra course and a range of students were reached. Furthermore, the entire project was performed at a distance employing readily available technologies such that additional costs were not a concern.


The effects of globalization on the United States economy are well-documented and have significant implications for the engineers of today and the near future. It has been observed for many years the movement of domestic manufacturing operations overseas in order to leverage available cost advantages. What began as the export of unskilled manufacturing jobs has grown to include service sector jobs like customer support and even computer programmers. This trend continues today with skills unique to engineers being viewed as commodities that can be supplied by people all over the world. By some estimates, one third of all domestic jobs are susceptible to off-shoring1.

The rapid development of various information technologies have greatly lowered barriers to information for people all over the world and has enabled the export of skilled engineering jobs. This fact is exemplified by statistics on the numbers of engineers being graduated in China and India as compared to the United States. While specific numbers are subject to debate, even conservative estimates show that the number of engineers produced by China and India together double or triple the number produced in the United States2. Trends also indicate that this gap will continue to grow. Statistics for 2004-2005 academic year showed that domestic engineering enrollments were down for the second year in a row, and worse, that less than 5 percent of undergraduate degrees were awarded in engineering in 2005 as compared to almost 8 percent in 19853. With greater numbers of foreign engineers available, the export of jobs is then driven by their lower cost. For example, eight young professional engineers can be hired in India for the cost of a single engineer in the United States4.

The implications of these numbers for the engineering students of today are twofold: (1) students of today face much more international competition for jobs than they have in the past, and (2) as practicing engineers they are much more likely to have to work with engineers from all over the world. In order to prepare our students for this new environment, it is necessary that we educators modify and improve their preparation. It is no longer enough that our students be technically competent, they must excel as leaders, communicators, and innovators. This

Hill, R., & Pena, P. (2010, June), International Collaboration In An Undergraduate Control Systems Course Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015