In this article, we describe a collaborative approach to develop, integrate, and assess a teaching module on smart actuators specifically designed to embed topics in nano/bio technology into the undergraduate mechanical engineering (ME) curriculum. The collaboration involves three universities, each focusing on one specific aspect of the module. The module consists of lectures and laboratory activities that cover modeling and control of smart actuators for courses such as system dynamics, controls, and mechatronics. The integration of smart actuators — such as piezoelectric, shape memory alloy (SMA), and magnetostrictive based devices — into the ME curriculum is important because these devices are the workhorse in a multitude of nano and bio technologies. Thus, these devices play a critical role in the emerging areas, analogous to the benefits of the electric motor at the macroscale. But contrast to the well established coverage of the electric motor in the ME curriculum, modeling and control of smart actuators has yet to be systematically presented in core ME courses. The contribution of this article is presenting the systematic development, integration, and assessment of a teaching module on smart actuators. We first describe the design of lecture components using the piezo actuator as an example. The lecture materials cover core concepts within the framework of dynamics and controls, such as electromechanical coupling, dynamic response, nonlinear input-output behavior, and PID feedback control technique for high-precision positioning. Afterwards, we describe the development of a hands-on laboratory experiment designed to expose students to the basics of experimental modeling of the piezo actuator. The platform is also suited for basic control applications, and an example is presented to illustrate the application of piezo actuator control for high-precision positioning. The paper concludes with a discussion on how the module will be implemented and assessed at the three participating universities.

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