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Teaching Basic Control Systems Theory Using Robots

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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

Manufacturing Laboratory Experience

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1166.1 - 9.1166.7



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Paper Authors

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Vedaraman Sriraman

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Dugan Um

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

Session # 2004-221

Teaching Basic Control Systems Theory Using Robots

Dugan Um, Vedaraman Sriraman Technology Department, Texas State University-San Marcos San Marcos, Texas 78666

Abstract: Automatic control systems and industrial robotics are amongst some very important content areas for Manufacturing Engineering and Engineering Technology students. From a learning processes standpoint there are issues with the way by which these topics are typically delivered in the classroom. First, controls theory is presented using the analytical approach; which causes the subject to appear very “dry” and theoretical. Secondly, control systems and robotics are taught in separate courses, which may result in students not being able to appreciate the interrelationship that exits between these areas. In this paper a strategy is detailed wherein the authors have used a “hands-on” approach, using robots as a tool for communicating key concepts in control systems. The use of robots as a tool also enables students to “discover” the relationship between the two areas. Introduction This paper deals with pedagogical problems that were encountered in teaching automation, robotics, and controls systems to engineering technology and manufacturing engineering students at Texas State University-San Marcos. Controls theory as presented in classical books such as those by Kuo1 and Ogata2 has the potential of coming across as being very mathematical, theoretical, abstract and dry. This is not to suggest that no practical applications are presented in traditional books. However, the applications are typically covered through the medium of such system representations as differential equations, block diagrams, and transfer functions. Thus, students do not develop a real "feel" for the practical applications.

The aforementioned approach is not particularly suitable for engineering technology and manufacturing engineering students (in contrast to mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering students) as both majors are very intensely processes and equipment oriented, applications engineering disciplines. A survey of the transactions of the ETD listserv3 will reveal that several educators face the dilemma of how best to teach controls systems. A second problem that we faced is as follows: Our curriculum requires students to take both TECH 4391 – Computer Aided Manufacturing and MFGE 4376 – Control Systems and Instrumentation. TECH 4391 deals with computer numerical control, robotics, and PLCs, while MFGE 4376 deals with open loop systems, closed loop systems, sensors, actuators, transient response, frequency response, and stability. While both classes present very important materials, students were not able to make the connections between the two. Students are required to take MFGE 4376 before TECH 4391, so that they have foundational controls theory before dealing with computer aided manufacturing. However, students in MFGE 4376 were not able to see an immediate practical need for the course. Therefore, we decided to use robot systems (robot manipulator and its sensor and actuator based accessories) to teach controls theory.

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

Sriraman, V., & Um, D. (2004, June), Teaching Basic Control Systems Theory Using Robots Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13488

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