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Control Systems Laboratories


Title: Experiential learning in control systems laboratories and engineering project management
Author(s):
Director of Research:
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):
Doctoral Committee Member(s):
Department / Program: Industrial&Enterprise Sys Eng
Discipline: Systems & Entrepreneurial Engr
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s):
Abstract: Experiential learning is a process by which a student creates knowledge through the insights gained from an experience. Kolb's model of experiential learning is a cycle of four modes: (1) concrete experience, (2) reflective observation, (3) abstract conceptualization, and (4) active experimentation. His model is used in each of the three studies presented in this dissertation. Laboratories are a popular way to apply the experiential learning modes in STEM courses. Laboratory kits allow students to take home laboratory equipment to complete experiments on their own time. Although students like laboratory kits, no previous studies compared student learning outcomes on assignments using laboratory kits with existing laboratory equipment. In this study, we examined the similarities and differences between the experiences of students who used a portable laboratory kit and students who used the traditional equipment. During the 2014-2015 academic year, we conducted a quasi-experiment to compare students' achievement of learning outcomes and their experiences in the instructional laboratory for an introductory control systems course. Half of the laboratory sections in each semester used the existing equipment, while the other sections used a new kit. We collected both quantitative data and qualitative data. We did not identify any major differences in the student experience based on the equipment they used. Course objectives, like research objectives and product requirements, help provide clarity and direction for faculty and students. Unfortunately, course and laboratory objectives are not always clearly stated. Without a clear set of objectives, it can be hard to design a learning experience and determine whether students are achieving the intended outcomes of the course or laboratory. In this study, I identified a common set of laboratory objectives, concepts, and components of a laboratory apparatus for undergraduate control systems laboratories. During the summer of 2015, a panel of 40 control systems faculty members, from a variety of institutions, completed a multi-round Delphi survey in order to bring them toward consensus on the common aspects of their laboratories. The following winter, 45 additional faculty members and practitioners from the control systems community completed a follow-up survey to gather feedback on the results of the Delphi survey. During the Delphi study, the panelists identified 15 laboratory objectives, 26 concepts, and 15 components that were common in their laboratories. Then in both the Delphi survey and follow-up survey each participant rated the importance of each of these items. While the average ratings differed slightly between the two groups, the order of each set of items was compared with two different tests and the order was found to be similar. Some of the common and important learning objectives include connecting theory to what is implemented and observed in the laboratory, designing controllers, and modeling and simulating systems. The most common component in both groups was MathWorks software. Some of the common concepts include block diagrams, stability, and PID control. Defining common aspects of undergraduate control systems laboratories enables common development, detailed comparisons, and simplified adaptation of equipment and experiments between campuses and programs. Throughout an undergraduate program in engineering, there are multiple opportunities for hands-on laboratory experiences that are related to course content. However, a similarly immersive experience for project management graduate students is harder to incorporate for all students in a course at once. This study explores an experiential learning opportunity for graduate students in engineering management or project management programs. The project management students enroll in a project management course. Undergraduate students interested in working on a project with a real customer enroll in a different projects course. Two students from the project management course function as project managers and lead a team of undergraduate students in the second course through a project. I studied how closely the project management experience in these courses aligns with engineering project management in industry. In the spring of 2015, I enrolled in the project management course at a large Midwestern university. I used...


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