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This paper seeks to begin a discussion with regard to developing computer aided control system design (CACSD) tools to promote undergraduate controls laboratory development. The advocated CACSD design tools are based on the popular, commercially available MATLAB environment, the Simulink toolbox, and the Real-Time Workshop toolbox. This paper describes how these tools can be utilized to address several issues that are confronted by control systems educators including: standardization, budget constraints, and limited resources. Specifically, by confronting the standardization issue, the following advantages are realized for laboratory development: (1) the required computer hardware will be low cost; (2) commercially available plants from different manufacturers can be supported under the same CACSD environment with no hardware modifications; (3) both the Windows and Linux operating systems can be supported via the MATLAB based Real-Time Windows Target and the Quality Real-Time Systems (QRTS) based Real-Time Linux Target; and (4) the Simulink block diagram approach can be utilized to prototype control strategies, thereby, eliminating the need for low level programming skills. The advantages related to standardization of the CACSD design tools will enable educators to confront the additional budget constraint and limited teaching resources issue by facilitating: (1) the sharing of laboratory resources within each university (i.e., between departments); (2) the development of Internet laboratory experiences for students (i.e., between universities); and (3) the initiation of an Internet-based archive of laboratory tutorials and Simulink files for in-house developed plants and commercially available plants.
Date of Publication: Aug 2002