Engineering education has the objective of not only presenting the scientific principles, i.e., engineering science, but also of teaching students how to apply these to real problems. Therefore, hands-on laboratories have been an integral part of the engineering curriculum since its inception [1–3]. This presentation will demonstrate the use of a novel low-cost experimental apparatus for use in a typical undergraduate course in control systems taught to mechanical engineering students, i.e. students with limited exposure to electrical engineering. A simple to use, low cost system has been designed that provides a platform for experimentation in areas from basic open loop control, to frequency domain and digital control systems. This paper presents the design of the system, and demonstrates the ability of MATLAB tools such as Simulink Real Time Windows Target to illustrate implementation of various aspects of control design. The system setup consists of a DC micro-motor attached to a carbon fiber rod. The angular displacement is measured with an analog potentiometer, which acts as the pivot point for the carbon fiber rod. The DC micro-motor is powered by a low cost, custom circuit board, whos H-bridge allows the motor rotate in either forward or reverse directions. Attached to the micro-motor is a small propeller, providing thrust force to rotate the pendulum about its potentiometer. The circuit board communicates to the host computer using the USB protocol, utilizing usbser.sys to create a virtual COM port. MATLAB uses the serial port object to read and write from the control board. The control board is powered through two USB ports, requiring no external power adaptor or extra cabling. This paper shows the use of feedback linearization to arrive at a system where classical linear control design methods can be used. The project was tested in a classical control systems design class offered to senior-level mechanical engineering students. Student feedback and survey data on the effectiveness of the module is also presented.

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