System dynamics and control take-home experiments

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



Most Mechanical Engineering curricula include courses in system dynamics, controls, mechatronics, and vibrations. At most schools, these courses do not have a laboratory component. Even at schools that have such a component, laboratory access is often limited, and thus there is a need to increase students' laboratory experience. This paper addresses the development of instructional material in the form of take-home software and hardware kits that can be used to perform laboratory experiments and measurements at home to illustrate system dynamics and control concepts. Rather than having students perform an experiment in the university laboratory, the students are given a compact, low cost software and hardware kit with which they can perform an experiment at home using only their PC. The kits are designed so that the experiments can be conducted on the provided experimental apparatus. The take-home kit consists of three components. The first is a hardware interface board that is built around a PIC18F4550 microcontroller which interfaces with the student's PC and with the experiment hardware. The second component is a Windows-based user interface program that is loaded on the student's PC and is used to run the experiment and collect data. The third component is the actual experimental setup or the sensor system to perform the measurement. Four experimental setups have been developed. These are a DC motor/tachometer system, a heater/temperature sensor system, a vibrating cantilever beam, and a temperature measurement system. The paper focuses on two of these experimental setups and their testing in two different undergraduate mechanical engineering courses. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2010.

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings

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