Abstract

Mechatronics is the synergistic combination of precision mechanical engineering, electronics, control engineering, and computer science in the design process. This paper describes a new elective course entitled Mechatronics which has been developed and was taught for the first time at Rensselaer during the fall 1991 semester to 45 senior-undergraduate and graduate students. The key areas of mechatronics which are studied in depth in this course are: control sensors and actuators, interfacing sensors and actuators to a microcomputer, discrete controller design, and real-time programming for control using the C programming language. The course is heavily laboratory-based with a two-hour laboratory weekly in addition to three hours of classroom lecture. The laboratory exercises include computer-aided control system design using MATRIXx, various analog and digital sensors, hydraulic actuators, DC and stepper motors, and computer control of a variety of physical systems. The unifying theme for the course is the integration of these key areas into a successful mechatronic design. Students are required, as a final project, to: identify a problem or need, analyze the problem, and write a problem statement; perform a state-of-the-art review; develop a list of specifications and identify the key specifications; generate an outstanding mechatronic-system conceptual design; and finally perform a detailed design of the system which may include model building and hardware development. Examples of student projects are described. This course should significantly enhance our design education program in the Mechanical Engineering Department and lay the foundation for the students to become mechatronic design engineers.

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