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Providing Hands On Experiences In A Mechanical Engineering Controls Systems Course

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 1: Controls

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1032.1 - 9.1032.10



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Paper Authors

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John-David Yoder

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Michael Rider

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Juliet Hurtig

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

Session 1166

Providing Hands-on Experiences in a Mechanical Engineering Controls Systems Course

John-David Yoder, Juliet Hurtig, and Michael Rider T.J. Smull College of Engineering Ohio Northern University


As is the case with many Mechanical Engineering (ME) curricula, undergraduate ME students at Ohio Northern University (ONU) are required to take a Control Systems course. The typical student at ONU will take this course (ME 419) during the winter quarter of their senior year. After teaching this course for the first time in the winter of 2001, it was felt that a significant improvement could be made to the laboratory portion of this course. With the assistance of an ONU Faculty Development Grant and colleagues Dr. Hurtig (Assistant Dean and Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering) and Dr. Rider (Professor of Mechanical Engineering), Dr. Yoder completely revised the laboratory schedule for the 2002-2003 academic year. The course changes and assessment of the results will be discussed, as well as plans for future improvement of the course laboratory experience.


Controls Systems is a course in which students often feel a disconnect between the mathematics they see during analysis and any real application of the theory (course evaluation comments from the 2001-02 academic year agreed with this general trend). Mechanical Engineers have little experience relating Laplace-space or Frequency-space equations to physical systems. The benefits to student learning of hands-on experiences and design experiences have been well documented [1-3]. Such work is strongly encouraged by the ONU Engineering Strategic Plan which states “A balance of 'hands-on' applications and theoretical expertise and understanding should be established in order to best prepare the students for future professional endeavors [4].” ABET also continues to stress the ability to design systems and conduct experiments as important criteria [5]. The authors sought to improve student learning and student interest in this course (as well as this field of study) by allowing students to experiment with simple, working, control systems, and to design controllers for a specific, desired response.

While most ME curricula do include a course in classical control theory, far fewer include a laboratory experience as part of this course. Several papers have been published describing interdisciplinary laboratories related to controls [6-9], but few are specific to a mechanical engineering controls course. Some of the programs that do include a lab (either in a required course or as an elective) can be found at [10-13].

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Yoder, J., & Rider, M., & Hurtig, J. (2004, June), Providing Hands On Experiences In A Mechanical Engineering Controls Systems Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13232

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