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Laboratory Innovations In Undergraduate Control Engineering Education

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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

Electrical and Computer Engineering Laboratories

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.831.1 - 15.831.15



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Paper Authors


Ahmed Rubaai Howard University

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Ahmed Rubaai received the M.S.E.E degree from
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland,
Ohio, in 1983, and the Dr. Eng. degree from
Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio,
in 1988. In 1988, he joined Howard University,
Washington, D.C., as a faculty member, where
he is presently a Professor of Electrical
Engineering. He is the Founder and Lead
Developer of Howard University Motion Control and Drives Laboratory and is actively involved in many projects with industry, while engaged in teaching, research and consulting in the area of artificial intelligence and motion controls. His research interests include intelligent system
monitoring, built-in intelligent controller for high performance industrial drives, hardware testing in laboratory, research and development of intelligent applications for manufacturing systems and industrial applications.

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Abstract A three-year funding and a kind equipment donation from Moog Aerospace have enabled the author to develop Howard University Motion Control and Drives Laboratory using state-of-the- art control systems technology. The primary elements of this laboratory are establishing a comprehensive facility in an interdisciplinary, team-oriented environment, and developing a laboratory curriculum based on hands-on experience. The key hardware element of such capability is an embeddable dSPACE digital signal processor (DSP) that can be connected to various sensors and actuators, depending upon the system objectives. The key software used in the laboratory exercises is based on MATLAB/Simulink environment. The MATLAB/Simulink environment is used to build the control algorithms, allowing the students to design, and test their controllers without being distracted by software implementation issues. The controllers are first designed in Simulink. Then, the Real-Time Workshop (RTW) is used to automatically generate optimized C code for real-time applications. Afterward, the interface between MATLAB/Simulink and the dSPACE DSP DS 1104 allows the control algorithms to run on the hardware processor of the DSP. Generation of a C program with RTW is an automated process, and students are relieved from cumbersome hand coding. The laboratory environment was used in teaching an introductory laboratory control course. Implementation of the laboratory exercises gave the students a sense of accomplishment. Much enjoyment was realized in the implementation of the dSPACE DSP system and Simulink intuitive model-based programming.

Introduction Students in engineering often express apparent frustration in justifying the relevance of their classroom-oriented education. Moreover, this feeling materializes in the demands for hardware- oriented control courses1. As educators, we are sympathetic with these requests but find that the university is generally unable to apply “hands-on” design experience with eventually leads to the production of a prototype. This problem has not gone unnoticed in the field of education today, and there have been great leaps in the creation of more “hands-on” teaching methods that lend themselves to industrial applications2. Throughout schools and universities within the United States and internationally, there has been growing interest in the use of practical control concepts in and beyond the classroom. This has been accomplished to a large extent through the use of laboratory courses, with incorporation of technology tools that enable students to work on different real-world control configurations. This adjustment to incorporate the more practical format into the classroom has taken different forms throughout the academic world. In the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, The Netherlands, the modeling of control systems is an important part of their Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering degree curriculum3. There is a gradual introduction to real world systems that begins with a lower level course where the students are introduced to mathematical concepts and A/D conversion and ends with a final year project that incorporates the manipulation of various feedback controllers to accomplish a specific task. In this way the students are transported from the theoretical understanding to actual applications by the end of the degree program. At the Department of Automatic Control at the Lund Institute of Technology in Sweden4, all disciplines in their four and a half year Master of Science degree, excluding chemical and biotechnical engineering, must complete a basic control


Rubaai, A. (2010, June), Laboratory Innovations In Undergraduate Control Engineering Education Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15932

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