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Taking Control of Control Systems: A Student Developed, Multimedia and Simulation Tool for Control Systems Education

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Student Division Technical Session 2

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Matilda Ho University of Texas at Dallas

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Matilda Ho completed this capstone project for a BS in Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Dallas. She is currently continuing her education at The University of Texas at Dallas for an MS in Systems Engineering and Management. Upon completion, she hopes to work in industry with a focus in sustainable business.

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Maria Fernanda Valdez

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Casey Hatfield

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Jieun Kim

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Taylor Carlile Beach

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Control systems are ubiquitous in engineering. Thus, they provide valuable tools for analysis and performance enhancement with real-world applications. Among engineering students, control systems are a notoriously challenging subject for being too abstract and, in turn, challenging to connect each of its subtopics for a comprehensive understanding. Students are increasingly turning to online resources for supplemental learning materials; however, the field of control systems has substantially less variety of online resources than other lower-level engineering classes. This project focuses on developing a free interactive, online education tool for control systems education that integrates the traditional curriculum with interactive learning components and game-like simulations. The website featuring the tool will use a website plugin to help provide an educational framework. The project will use an opensource game engine to develop visualizations and gamify learning modules, ultimately creating a more interactive learning experience. The immersive nature of gamification and interactive learning will help students with a broader range of learning styles. Finally, some MATLAB files will be available for download so that students can gain exposure to graphical representations and further practice with the software used in their classes. This education tool uses real-world examples corresponding to a concentration of engineering to give the curriculum an encompassing theme to conceptualize control system analysis and design. There are two learning paths featured on this project that reflect the student team's majors; biomedical and mechanical paths. The biomedical engineering learning path models the pancreas as a natural feedback system for controlling blood glucose concentration. The mechanical engineering learning path models an automated car system for controlling car speed. As a capstone project, the tool is being developed by students who have recently learned control systems and are aware of the challenges students face when newly learning the material. This perspective will bring a unique perspective to the supplemental learning material on the education tool. The website will also link to further supporting education materials from other sources to benefit student users. The project documentation will also be available on the website as an open resource to further support the project and its users. The documentation will include methods used to develop curriculum, create learning modules, and integrate a game engine for educational gamification. The website will also feature a blog that documents the student team's progress chronologically, highlighting challenges as they occur. Upon completion, the learning tool will be tested for user satisfaction on students currently in undergraduate control systems classes through user metric surveys and presented in the completed project. Student feedback will be a highlight in the results upon the completion of this project. Furthermore, this project will present a student perspective and approach to developing a free online multimedia learning tool using open source methods. The student perspective's added value identifies the difficulties of learning control systems and is more responsive to the increasingly available innovative technologies in education.

Ho, M., & Valdez, M. F., & Hatfield, C., & Kim, J., & Beach, T. C. (2021, July), Taking Control of Control Systems: A Student Developed, Multimedia and Simulation Tool for Control Systems Education Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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