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Which of these courses are most useful for Controls Engineering?

  1. Aug 11, 2013 #1
    I am currently majoring in Electrical Engineering as an undergraduate at a university. While I am not entirely sure of the specifics of what I want to do after graduation, I do know I want to go into control systems design, perhaps concentrating on power systems. I also want to keep the doors open for some sort of career in research in controls theory or something (I need more research experience to make the decision). Anyways, these are the senior electives I have narrowed my decisions down to, based off of interest and relevance to the field. I would like to note that I do WANT to take all of these courses, but some of them are less related to controls.

    am to pick 5 electives from the following:

    Introduction to Space Weather (I find extremely interesting. I love this kind of science)
    Power Electronics*
    Power System Analysis and Control
    Power System Protection (Requires Power System Analysis and Control)
    Control Systems I
    Control Systems II
    Mechatronics I (Curriculum covers instrumentation and controls of electromechanical systems)
    Mechatronics II
    Digital Signal Processing & Filter Design* (Also a big interest. I know I'm weird)

    *Out of the 5, 1 of them has to be either Power Electronics or DSP in order to meet my required design credits. I can take both.

    I do plan on continuing to get a Masters degree after undergrad, so I will be taking more courses after these. I'd love to hear everyone's input
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2013 #2
    I've taken about 5 controls courses and I'd be curious if you know of the course content for Control Systems I and Control Systems II. Control systems 1 is usually a course on "Classical controls" which covers everything from the 50's, when the field began. Classical controls involves design of P (proportional), PI (proportional plus integrator), PD (proportional plus derivative), phase lag, phase lead, phase-lag phase-lead and combinations of all these using various methods (nyquist, root locus, etc), and it was all done in the continuous time domain. "Control Systems II" could have a bunch of different topics since you've all read covered classical controls. My 2nd controls course in undergrad was digital control systems, and we discussed state-space, basic system-identification, star-transforms, lots of types of A2D conversion etc. and was considered separate from the signals processing courses.

    Although I loved these courses, I didn't end up with a great feeling for actual hardware electronics from undergraduate degree. If your focus is on actual hardware, I think I would skip both theoretical controls courses and take mechatronics 1 at least.

    It's a tough call. I think if your goal is to work at a job that is precisely controls, then maybe take the theoretical controls while in college and get the experience later, which you can ensure you will get..

    If however you want to get more well rounded and not necessarily work on controls all the time, you might want to consider applied controls like the mechatronics course or the *Power System Analysis and Control* course.

    Although to a point, there is a time and place for theory and that's usually at a university, in college/grad school.
    The work i'm doing at my job requires thermo/fluid dynamics and i'm often in the dark, man. It's rough, and even though it's applied ( in programming ) , it's rough because i"m missing some fundamental theories (which prior experience wouldn't give me very well) and the guy that is mentoring me, an ME, has to explain thermo/fluid things repeatedly. It's kind of embarrassing, honestly.

    So I guess while you certainly want to have a specialization in controls, don't miss out on the fundamentals of other areas.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2013
  4. Aug 12, 2013 #3
    Controls 1:
    Introduction to Control Systems; Transfer Functions, Block Diagrams
    Modeling Dynamic Systems
    Introduction to state space
    Standard Second Order Systems
    PID Controllers
    Root Locus
    Construction Rules
    Compensator Design
    Nyquist Stability Criteria
    Gain/Phase Margins and Lead-Lag Compensation
    Sensitivity and Robustness.

    Controls 2:
    Introduction to Digital Control 5%
    2. Review of Z-transforms 10%
    3. Discrete-Time System Models 10%
    4. Digital Redesign Methods 15%
    5. Analysis and Design in Z-domain a. Root locus b. Frequency response design c. Direct design 30%
    6. Advanced Topics - topics such as sample rate selection, system identification, controller implementation, state-space design methods, design case studies, etc. will be covered based on faculty and student interests

    Sounds similar to what you had. I was considering taking the power courses, the first mechatronics and the dsp course because I have heard the same thing somewhere else before about the control theory classes not being as useful in field. It just seemed weird to be concentrating in control systems for graduate studies and not taking the theory classes.
  5. Aug 12, 2013 #4
    Just curious. Where are you going to college?
  6. Aug 12, 2013 #5
    I'm at Virginia Tech right now, but I spent a few years at another university before transferring. The ECE department is enormous compared to where I was at. Big difference transitioning from 12 person classes to 60(+) person classes.
  7. Aug 13, 2013 #6
    Ah. I went to Penn State for ugrad, where I took my first and 2nd control systems courses. The EE department there was large as well.

    Good luck on your course selection, but remember, it will never be enough anyway. You might even end up studying in some sort of academic fashion all of those topics early within your career as you will thirst for more no matter what you take, so I wouldn't lose sleep over it.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2013
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