How does the autopilot keep an airplane on course without the pilot adjusting the rudders and engines? How does the thermostat keep a room at a specified temperature without anyone turning the radiator and/or A/C on and off? How do Segways transport people instead of planting them on their faces? The answer to all these questions is "mathematical modeling and feedback." Control Engineers use knowledge of the behavior of airplanes, room temperatures, two-wheeled platforms, and other engineering systems to write programs that react in the right way: Is it too hot? Turn on the fan. Is the altitude not as desired? Adjust the back rudder. But how much and how fast should the rudder be moved, and which power should the fan run at? These questions are all addressed by the design of feedback algorithms. In this project, the students will go through the process of designing such an algorithm for the real-world application of a gantry crane (also known as a portal crane) and test it out on a lab-scale model.
The students will learn what we mean by "mathematical model," how to obtain one, and how to use it in the design process. Once the necessary skills are ready, they will model a gantry crane system, try to design an algorithm that keeps the load from swinging as it is moved, and simulate it in Simulink. Finally, they will implement their design and see it in action.