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Multidisciplinary Design Of Computer Controlled Systems

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.393.1 - 4.393.7

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

Session 2525

Multidisciplinary Design of Computer Controlled Systems

Hugh Jack, Padnos School of Engineering, Grand Valley State University


When we teach design we quite often focus on a single area or problem. Senior design projects are often seen as a way to broaden the subject area of the design. But, quite often we experience diffi- culty when crossing disciplinary boundaries.

Two successful projects that include electrical, mechanical and computer elements will be described. These projects were conducted by mixed groups of senior students from mechanical and electrical programs. In one of the projects, a mobile robot was interfaced to the Internet, in the second the project was design to be interfaced to a PLC. All of the projects are now in use sup- porting undergraduate laboratories and outreach programs.

1. Introduction

The school of engineering at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) had it’s first graduates in 1988. Since then, the school has continued to grow and now has students in electrical, computer, mechanical and manufacturing engineering. The faculty and curriculum are not departmentalized by program as is found in most programs. As a result, it is quite easy to offer courses and projects that have multidisciplinary content.

The engineering program at GVSU is practical in nature. This includes mandatory co-op employ- ment and a two semester capstone project. The first semester of the project is winter, and it involves planning and design. The second semester is summer and involves construction, debug- ging and testing. Typically the projects are conducted for local companies and eventually are used by the companies. The academic expectations for the projects are a professional quality design and build. By necessity most projects are multidisciplinary, involving both mechanical and elec- trical work. Quite often these devices use controls, such as PLCs. Examples of these projects are automated test stands, production equipment and product design/redesign. Budgets for these projects are rarely below $10,000.

This environment creates an expectation of high quality work that the students assume is normal. Occasionally a senior project will be run internally, with the school of engineering as the sponsor. These projects are funded and used to develop needed equipment. To date I have supervised three of these project teams to develop equipment for three different needs. Two of these projects used multidisciplinary teams. They are,

Jack, H. (1999, June), Multidisciplinary Design Of Computer Controlled Systems Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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