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Teaching Dynamic Systems and Control without Dynamics

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Manufacturing Curriculum and Course Innovations

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Ryan W. Krauss American Society of Mechanical Engineers

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Dr. Krauss received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech in 2006. His research interests include modeling and control design for flexible robots, feedback control, and microcontroller-based implementation of feedback control systems. In addition to the freshmen introduction to engineering design course, he has taught courses in mechatronics, controls, vibrations, dynamics and robotics as well as senior design.

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Arjumand Ali Grand Valley State University


Amy L. Lenz Grand Valley State University

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Amy Lenz is faculty in mechanical engineering at Grand Valley State University, teaching dynamic systems and controls.

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This work-in-progress paper investigates whether or not novel teaching strategies can help students who do not take dynamics succeed in a dynamic systems and control course. The Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering (PDM) program at Grand Valley State University is a hybrid between mechanical and manufacturing engineering with an emphasis on design and new product development. Because of the challenges of fitting in all of the desired content, students in the PDM program do not take dynamics.  This is particularly challenging to instructors teaching dynamic systems and control.  

The prerequisites for the dynamic systems and control course are physics and differential equations. Building on this foundation, a conglomeration of teaching strategies was used to grow students' understanding of dynamic systems with a particular emphasis on underdamped, second-order systems. The strategies employed included supplemental and semi-flipped instruction, online learning modules, experimental in-class demonstrations, and hands-on physical experiments.

The experiments used in this course are all designed to be low cost, focusing primarily on using the Arduino micro-controller for system identification and feedback control. Topics included step and impulse responses, PID tuning, dead-band, and frequency response. Additionally, students are taught to use Python and the Jupyter Notebook interface to simulate dynamic systems, process experimental data, and communicate with the Arduino over a serial connection. Student attitudes and self-efficacy related to programming are assessed and compared to students in another section who use Matlab instead.

A discussion of the essential learning outcomes for a first course in dynamic systems and controls is also presented. In the end, the achievement of learning outcomes related to the dynamics of second-order systems are compared between students in the PDM program and students in a traditional mechanical engineering program taking a similar course. Students in both courses were given the same prerequisite quiz on the first day of class. Common exam questions will be used to compare learning outcomes between mechanical engineering majors and students in the PDM program.

This paper should appeal to faculty in manufacturing and industrial engineering programs who may face similar challenges or have questions related to teaching dynamic systems and control to students who do not take dynamics. Additionally, this paper may appear to educators looking for low-cost dynamic systems and control experiments as well as those interested in assessment and novel teaching techniques related to dynamic systems courses.

Krauss, R. W., & Ali, A., & Lenz, A. L. (2017, June), Teaching Dynamic Systems and Control without Dynamics Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28911

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