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Microcontroller Based Brushless Motor Control In The Classroom

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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

Embedded Computing

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1064.1 - 12.1064.11



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Paper Authors


Michael Holden San Francisco State University

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Michael Holden is an assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

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Juan Carlos Miranda San Francisco State University

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Jose Coto San Francisco State University

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

Microcontroller-Based Brushless Motor Control in the Classroom


This paper explores the use of a commercial brushless motor control system (Figure 1) in a graduate controls class. The objective is to complement the students’ control design skills by teaching them to implement a controller on a contemporary microcontroller. Control theory is a well-developed topic, taught throughout engineering, but its very mathematical nature often leaves students with analytical techniques that they cannot apply in practice. Implementing a control design on a real system requires a different skill set that is not always taught to students in control systems classes, often requiring that the students take a separate class in real-time programming.

With the proliferation of inexpensive, powerful microcontrollers, modern engineers are more often left alone to design and build control systems without the benefit of large teams each dedicated to a subsystem, merging the control designer and control law programmer into the same person. Control engineers need to be able to implement simple control designs using real- time programming techniques or their design skills will be of no use.

To address these issues at San Francisco State University, a hands-on project was added to a graduate-level control system design class. The project requires that the students learn control implementation skills as well as giving them practical experience with modern microcontroller hardware. Students in the class have good design skills before the project, able to design controllers and simulate them in Matlab1, but they are inexperienced in implementation. For example, the students are often confused when asked to distinguish between the simulation of the plant and the control law (particularly when observers are included), since they never see one without the other. After implementing the control law on a real system, the distinction is easier to understand since the plant simulation is not used when there is a physical plant to control.

Figure 1: NEC Brushless Motor Control System

Holden, M., & Miranda, J. C., & Coto, J. (2007, June), Microcontroller Based Brushless Motor Control In The Classroom Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2575

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