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Mechatronics And Systems Instruction Across Graduate, Undergraduate, And Research Applications Using Rapidly Reconfigurable Hardware

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Developing New Instrumentation

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1051.1 - 12.1051.11

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Paper Authors


Sean Brennan Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Sean Brennan has been an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State University since 2003 and shares a joint faculty appointment with the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute. Since 1998, he has published over a dozen papers on topics ranging from systems dynamics, modeling, identification, and control; robust control; and vehicle chassis dynamics. His current areas of study include modeling and experimental validation of vehicle dynamics, human-in-the-loop experimental testing, novel sensing and hardware systems, and fault-tolerant sensing and control.

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

Mechatronics and Systems Instruction Across Graduate, Undergraduate, and Research Applications Using Rapidly Reconfigurable Hardware

Abstract A challenge with the development of any new laboratory is the cost-effective use of hardware resources. This work discusses the development of a reconfigurable data-acquisition architecture across three different application areas in university mechatronics and control systems instruction setting: undergraduate education, graduate education, and graduate-level research. An analysis is offered of the different operational and educational requirements across these different levels of instruction. In many cases, these educational tiers present non-complementary requirements including different expectations on ease of use, durability, compatibility, software complexity, and performance. This work presents a laboratory development strategy that assists in balancing research and teaching while simultaneously fostering new activity in both areas.

Introduction When faced with developing laboratory or research hardware across undergraduate, graduate, and research level applications, the historical solution at many educational institutes is simply to purchase and support distinctly different hardware data-acquisition solutions between the three separate areas. Not only is this expensive and unduly time consuming, but also it artificially breaks a natural continuum of instrumentation education across levels of instruction.

There are several means to address the issue of limited time and resources. The simplest is to limit student exposure to hardware, and sadly this is an approach widely used. To counter this budget-centric focus, educators have long anecdotally claimed that interactive laboratory experiments and problem-based learning (PBL) foster a stronger education. Fortunately, there are very comprehensive studies in the recent literature that unquestionably validate problem- based learning1 and leave no doubt that hands-on interaction is essential to efficient learning.

Another way to provide student exposure to hardware is to seek out low-cost “trainer” type experimental systems. Examples of these abound in the literature2-10, and while these are useful for primarily undergraduate education, their applicability to graduate education and research is clearly limited.

Another option is to purchase or develop a few research-grade systems and allow controlled student access to these devices. While this method is also commonly used11-18, it is generally unclear how well such systems scale in number or durability to situations where hundreds of students or more utilize the equipment.

Yet another option is to pool resources across departments to form a lab facility with sufficient support to hire a controls lab developer that assists with research deployment19. This very unique and successful approach requires interdepartmental coordination at a level beyond the feasible effort level of an individual faculty member, especially one just starting at a new institution.

Brennan, S. (2007, June), Mechatronics And Systems Instruction Across Graduate, Undergraduate, And Research Applications Using Rapidly Reconfigurable Hardware Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii.

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