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Using Puzzles and Hands-on Activities for Teaching Concepts in Control Systems

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

New Trends in ECE Education I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Daniel Raviv Florida Atlantic University

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Dr. Raviv is a Professor of Computer & Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Florida Atlantic University. In December 2009 he was named Assistant Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

With more than 25 years of combined experience in the high-tech industry, government and academia Dr. Raviv developed fundamentally different approaches to “out-of-the-box” thinking and a breakthrough methodology known as “Eight Keys to Innovation.” He has been sharing his contributions with professionals in businesses, academia and institutes nationally and internationally. Most recently he was a visiting professor at the University of Maryland (at Mtech, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute) and at Johns Hopkins University (at the Center for Leadership Education) where he researched and delivered processes for creative & innovative problem solving.

For his unique contributions he received the prestigious Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, the Faculty Talon Award, the University Researcher of the Year AEA Abacus Award, and the President’s Leadership Award. Dr. Raviv has published in the areas of vision-based driverless cars, green innovation, and innovative thinking. He is a co-holder of a Guinness World Record. His new book is titled: "Everyone Loves Speed Bumps, Don't You? A Guide to Innovative Thinking."

Dr. Daniel Raviv received his Ph.D. degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1987 and M.Sc. and B.Sc. degrees from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in 1982 and 1980, respectively.

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Luan Leao Gloria Florida Atlantic University/ Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

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Luan Leão Glória graduated from Electrical Engineering at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil in 2014. He worked as a teaching assistant at UFMG, in the Computer Science Department, where he tutored and evaluated Numeric Calculus students. He joined the Energy Conversion and Control Lab (LCCE) at UFMG, where he evaluated and created finite elements simulations. He is also a co-author of a paper created by the research team of LCCE. Luan has worked as a researcher and researchers recruiter in the Intel® eCoSoC Team at DCC, UFMG, providing energy measurement techniques for embedded systems.
Luan received the Science Without Borders scholarship from the Brazilian government to study at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) for one year. At FAU he started, together with Dr. Raviv, to help students have a better experience learning Linear Control Systems.

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Today, conventional methods of text-based instruction may not be as effective as they have been in previous generations. As technology brings about a paradigm shift in the way people perceive and learn new information, additional methods should be explored to adapt to the students' new styles of learning.

This paper describes several illustrative examples of teasers and puzzles aimed at visualizing and comprehending math-intensive, theoretical concepts in Control Systems. The idea is to explain themes in Control Systems in an intuitive and engaging manner before transitioning to textbook-like traditional material. The method is designed to be supplemental to existing educational resources, in order to promote intuition prior to introducing further mathematical analysis. It should be noted that the proposed approach is not an attempt to replace chapters in existing Controls textbooks.

Since a growing number of students have difficulties connecting mathematical representations to practice, the goal of using puzzles, as an educational tool, is to provide a richer perspective of control systems by promoting intuitive thinking through real-life, hands-on, enjoyable activities.

This approach is also meant to foster an environment where students do not feel intimidated by the math-focused content as well as boost their confidence while establishing intuition, which can be applied to a later analysis. This approach can lead to an improved, more profound understanding of the subject matter. Some of the puzzles can also be used to clarify different control ideas, gradually explaining concepts of higher levels of complexity by looking at puzzles from different points of view.

As efforts are currently being explored by a number of educators to achieve a similar goal, this project will focus on creating a working manuscript for instructors to explain many key topics in control systems using puzzles and teasers. This is part of a greater effort at ________ University where this approach is currently being applied to different subjects in engineering such as computer algorithms, and calculus.

To gauge the receptiveness of the methodology, a few puzzles and activities were used over the course of a semester in a class titled “Control Systems 1.” The results, based on 39 student responses, were promising. Summary of results on a scale of “1” to “5”, “5” being strongly agree, “3” neutral, and “1” strongly disagree: Most students strongly agreed that visual, intuitive and engaging activities help them understand concepts better, and agreed that brain teasers and puzzles help them understand and clarify concepts in Control Systems. It also turned out that students prefer to use PowerPoint and instructor notes, and not only rely on self-learning.

Raviv, D., & Leao Gloria, L. (2016, June), Using Puzzles and Hands-on Activities for Teaching Concepts in Control Systems Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27160

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