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Are these courses worth it?

  1. Sep 12, 2013 #1
    Hey guys,

    I'm an undergrad in computer engineering. This past summer I worked as a research assistant in the robotics GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. This experience with robots has driven an interest in me in Control Systems (a class that computer engineers don't usually take).

    I wanted to know more about the class and whether or not I should take it, so I went to talk to one of my professors who teaches control systems and he told me that not only should I take that class, but that if I decide to take power system analysis and power electronics (alongside the tough computer engineering classes I am already taking), then that the companies would be crazy for a student with all the knowledge I would have.

    Is it useful for a computer engineer to learn about control systems engineering, power system analysis. and power electronics? If I decide to take these classes, I would graduate with the following list of relevant courses:

    Computer Engineering-specific courses:
    Data Structures
    Software Engineering
    Microprocessor Interfacing
    Database Systems
    Digital System Design
    Routing, Switching, and Wide Area Networks (Cisco CCNP certification).

    Extra Electrical engineering-specific courses:
    Control Systems Engineering
    Circuits III (power system analysis)
    Power electronics.

    Would you guys say a little bit of extra effort for those last three courses is worth it? Is there a way for computer engineers to apply that knowledge to a more low voltage computer focus?

    Thank you all very much!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2013 #2


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    Gold Member

    If you really like making machinery go, and go the way you want it to ... then yes.

    I switched from general computer work (databases, systems utilities, etc) to engineering work midway through my career. I then did real-time data acquisition systems, and then control systems for a long time. I enjoyed it a lot.

    There is nothing quite like seeing a 100 ton press come down and stop within 0.0001" of the target!
  4. Sep 13, 2013 #3

    jim hardy

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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Feedback Control Systems was probably the single most fascinating class I had. Also the most difficult, for me.
    It stems from some math oddities first noticed by Descartes a few hundred years ago that were shelved until WW2 when the Germans revived and advanced them for their rocketry. Hence the term "Rocket Science" . The German textbooks were among the war prizes brought back to US at end of the war.

    If the "Smart Grid" really happens , somebody who understands 3 phase, control theory and computers will be really well positioned for a meaningful career.

    Also an intuitive feel for the mechanics of feedback will change your perspective on how much in nature works.
    "Mother Nature just loves a balance."

    I wish i'd got a course in power system analysis.

    Good luck !

    old jim
  5. Sep 13, 2013 #4

    D H

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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I can't vouch for the power system analysis and power electronics classes, but control theory is something that is very good to take. Control systems are ubiquitous. Rockets, automobiles, chemical plants, electrical power plants, and machinery of all kinds use control theory to keep the device in question behaving correctly.
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