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Modeling and Control of a Tungsten–Bulb Heated Incubator: Teaching Controls Theory in a General Engineering Program

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Division Experimentation & Lab-oriented Studies: Mechanical Engineering and Control

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1163.1 - 26.1163.20



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Paper Authors


Jason Yao East Carolina University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jianchu (Jason) Yao is an Associate Professor with the Department of Engineering at East Carolina University (ECU), Greenville, North Carolina, USA. He received a B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Shaanxi University of Science and Technology, China, in 1992 and 1995, respectively, and the Ph. D. degree in electrical engineering from Kansas State University in 2005. He served as a controls engineer in China from 1995 to 2000. His current research interests include wearable medical devices, telehealthcare, bioinstrumentation, biosignal processing, and control systems. His educational research interests are laboratory/project-driven learning and integration of research into undergraduate education. Dr. Yao is a member of the American Society of Engineering Education and a senior member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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Modeling and Control of a Tungsten-Bulb Heated Incubator: Teaching Controls Theory in a General Engineering ProgramMost engineering students consider control theory challenging because of its mathematicalintensity. Frequency domain controls concepts (Nyquist criterion, magnitude/phase margin, etc.)are often perceived harder by many students because the connection between these theoreticalconcepts and their physical significance is distant. In the general engineering program at XXXUniversity, a comprehensive project, Using the Frequency Method to Design an IncubatorTemperature Control System for a Waterfowl Park, is developed to address this issue.During the course of the five-week project, students are required to model the thermal dynamicsof Tungsten bulbs and a glass incubator in MATLAB; characterize the frequency response of theincubator; design a compensator with SIMULINK based on the plant’s frequency response; andevaluate the system performance. Having a sense of real application, the students weremotivated and enthusiastic to tackle difficulty theory that they otherwise would be reluctant toattack. Most of them were able to actively seek answers to challenging questions in the projectand successfully completed the design task.Learning outcomes were measured by analyzing student project reports and responses to surveyquestions. Assessment results from the first two trails of the project show that this integrativeproject worked well for the general engineering students: not only they were able to connectabstract control theory to tangible applications and design control systems to meet requirements;they also observed how other subject knowledge (in this case thermal and heat transfer) isapplied to model processes, gaining a greater level of enthusiasm towards the generalengineering curriculum. Their ability to use MATLAB and SIMULINK was also considerablyimproved via the project.

Yao, J. (2015, June), Modeling and Control of a Tungsten–Bulb Heated Incubator: Teaching Controls Theory in a General Engineering Program Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24500

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