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Virtual Experiments For Digital Controller Design Projects

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.590.1 - 4.590.4

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Prawat Nagvajara

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

Session 2532

Virtual Experiments for Digital Controller Design Projects

Prawat Nagvajara Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Drexel University


We are developing a set of software applications that simulate and animate physical systems such as traffic at an intersection, and monorail and elevator systems. We call the software applications “virtual experiments,” and use them to teach digital controller design. These software applications run on a PC or a Macintosh to provide real-time simulations and animation which interact with an external controller via the computer's IO port. The students design different problems in which the controller receives information about the state of the system and sends the control signals to the virtual experiment software application. The students can solve these control problems using software solutions, e.g., via a microcontroller, and hardware/firmware solutions via Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). The courses that can use this teaching tool include design with microcontroller and digital systems (FPGA) design.

I. Introduction

Embedded systems design and top-down digital design (using hardware description language and design automation tools) are gaining popularity (and becoming necessary) in the electrical and computer engineering curriculum due to the demands in current technology. To that end, challenging hands-on design projects, which now accompany the courses, prove very effective teaching tools. Applications of digital systems in areas such as signal processing, telecommunications and high-performance computers represent plausible design problems, however, the control problems in which physical systems interact with digital systems to accomplish certain tasks, offer in our opinion more exciting hands-on design projects than other applications. With emphasis on digital design, students can produce a viable solution to simple control problems with minimal knowledge in control theory by using their intuition.

To reduce the overhead in constructing physical systems for our digital controller design projects, we adopt the use of computer simulations to create "virtual experiments" to replace the actual physical systems. The advantage is that we only require the development cost. Further, dissemination of this teaching aid can be done via the Internet. There do exist projects such as mobile robot, aerial robot and underwater robot in which simulation and animation cannot match

Nagvajara, P. (1999, June), Virtual Experiments For Digital Controller Design Projects Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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