Published in Proceedings of the 2007 ASEE Conference & Exposition: Honolulu, HI, June 24, 2007. 12 pages. Copyright © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education.
While one of the stated goals of the Mechanical Engineering Controls course is to develop the tools to design a controller, previous lab experiences did not include an experimental exercise in controller design. This was primarily due to the difficulty in implementing a controller that is robust and flexible enough to accommodate different student designs within the short time constraints of a three hour lab period. This paper describes an effort to use the Mathworks Real Time Windows Target to implement student controller designs on real hardware in a lab setting. Students use experimental data and a physically based model to design the controller for a hydraulic servo control system. A system transfer function is estimated from a frequency response experiment. Then a controller design is conducted using classical PID controller design techniques and a Simulink model. Finally when students have completed a controller design, they are allowed to implement it on the experimental apparatus and measure the system performance. They are then given a second chance to fine tune the model. The control is implemented with the Real Time Windows Target using a data acquisition card on a PC. A competition for the best performance also creates an exciting and competitive learning atmosphere. Assessments are presented that indicate the improvement in learning outcomes from the change in the lab exercise.