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Multidisciplinary Digital Control Systems Laboratory

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.879.1 - 7.879.14



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Paper Authors

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David Schmidt

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Gregory Plett

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Session 1526

A Multidisciplinary Digital-Control-Systems Laboratory

Gregory L. Plett, David K. Schmidt University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Abstract This paper describes a multipurpose and multidisciplinary control-systems laboratory that is being developed at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. It is shared by Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) students, allowing more efficient use of space and equipment, better use of funds, and elimination of overlap among individual departmental labs. The composition of the laboratory and its use with an introductory feedback-control-systems course has been described by Plett and Schmidt.1 In this present paper, we build on the previous work and outline how the lab is being used to augment digital control systems courses at the senior undergraduate level and graduate levels. Experiments and advanced student research projects (illustrating effects particular to digital control systems) with a magnetic levitation device and a control moment gyroscope are described. We have found the labs to be very helpful in aiding student understanding of control-systems concepts. Student comments indicate that real learning has taken place by using a hands-on lab experience that would have been missed if a purely theoretical approach had been taken. I. Background and Goals The control-systems laboratory at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) had not been paid much attention for years. One major deficiency was that it had not a single device to control! All lab experiments were accomplished via simulation, either on a Comdyna GP-6 analog computer,2 or on one of the lab’s digital computers using Matlab and Simulink by MathWorks. 3 Simulation using either method has limitations. The need to control real hardware, and not just simulations, is known to all who design and build real control systems. How this applies to control-systems education is emphasized in a paper by Bernstein. 4 Modeling and simulation rarely capture the complete picture—physical system identification is required; control experiments often focus attention on performance and implementation issues that are overlooked and difficult to capture in simulation; experiments can reveal whether or not assumptions made when making a control design are realistic; and experiments provide a way to identify control methods that seem to work under real-world conditions as well as those that clearly don’t. This final point leads to real learning. One opportunity arising from the lab’s neglect was that we were free to start from scratch with its redesign, and when choosing the dynamic systems that would be the primary focus of experiment.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright c 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Schmidt, D., & Plett, G. (2002, June), Multidisciplinary Digital Control Systems Laboratory Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11017

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