Josh Hurst, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Traditional educational control labs have several disadvantages: expensive equipment, distribution and location challenges, maintenance, and limited access, all which often necessitate multiple lab teams. The integration of low-cost prototyping tools with MATLAB® and Simulink® provides an opportunity to address these challenges. The approach involves the development of mobile lab experiment kits designed to replace a student textbook with an inspiring hardware system. This system is comparable in cost to a textbook, so every student can purchase and perform the labs. It is portable and self-contained, so labs can be performed anywhere, anytime. It utilizes the Arduino libraries and is fully supported by MATLAB and Simulink with automatic code generation. This means system-level concepts can be easily realized and implemented on the hardware. With an "all hands on hardware" approach, students have a concrete means to connect theory to practice, in addition to using a prototyping platform that can be useful throughout their coursework.
This presentation discusses this design problem, the development efforts in the capstone course at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and some current results. A product developed from this work—The MinSeg, a low-cost miniature balancing robot—is also presented.