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Mini Lab Projects In The Undergraduate Classical Control Course

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Trends in Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.855.1 - 8.855.9



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Paper Authors

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Jeff Dalton

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Daniel Stutts

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

Mini-Lab Projects in the Undergraduate Classical Controls Course

Jeffrey S. Dalton, Daniel S. Stutts, and Robert L. Montgomery

University of Missouri-Rolla Rolla, MO 65409


To address a common complaint from students that the undergraduate controls lecture course in mechanical engineering is too abstract, an electromechanical mini-lab was developed. The term “mini-lab” is used here to emphasize the fact that the lab augments the lecture, but does not replace a full controls lab. This mini-lab consists of a simple DC motor and flywheel with either tachometer speed, or potentiometer position, feedback to implement speed or position control. The students were required to model the system, design controllers using root locus techniques, simulate the compensated system using MATLAB and Simulink, and implement their controllers using analog circuitry contained in a supplied breadboard kit. The students, placed into groups of three, then debuged and tested their controllers on the mini-lab to determine the actual performance in comparison to simulation. The outcomes over two trials will be presented along with recommended modifications.

1. Introduction

One of the main complaints of students in the mechanical engineering classical controls course at UMR (ME279) is that the material covered is too theoretical in nature, and the examples provided in the text are too abstract. ME279 is an introductory control systems design and analysis course that includes classical control system design topics. Topics presented in the course normally include classical feedback control system analysis and design of single-input single output feedback control systems, time domain performance specification and analysis, time domain control system design using root locus techniques, and frequency domain analysis and design. The classical control systems course follows a course in linear systems where students study linear ordinary differential equations for modeling, Laplace transforms applied to mechanical systems, circuits and electromechanical systems. Students in the control systems course are usually required to complete a control systems design project near the end of the semester using MATLAB and Simulink. This is a “paper” project since the students are only required to submit a project report. While the paper project seems to help the students integrate what they have learned, there were still complaints regarding the theoretical, “non-hands-on nature” of the course.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education 1

Dalton, J., & Stutts, D. (2003, June), Mini Lab Projects In The Undergraduate Classical Control Course Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11775

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