A. Didenko, H. Karki, D. Allison

Petroleum Institute (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
Although the Microsoft Office suite has not been designed specifically for the purpose of teaching engineering topics, the Excel component of this package can be a useful instructional aid for the presentation of mathematical concepts and techniques central to various engineering fields. The usefulness of the spreadsheet in this regard has been rather undervalued by educators, technologists and computer hobbyists. To help alter this perception of the spreadsheet the authors set out to show how Excel can be used to explore a core topic in control theory. Undergraduate students of electrical and mechanical engineering are commonly required to take a course that provides them with a background to control principles. An introduction to classical control theory provides the students with a set of mathematical tools enabling them to systematically analyze how dynamical systems can be regulated via feedback loops. The mathematical methods may include: Laplace transforms, transfer functions, block diagrams, signal flow graphs, time response analysis, root locus and frequency domain analysis. One of the most common analytical tools is the root locus plot. This is a graphical method that depicts how a system performance changes by tuning the gain in a feedback system. To facilitate the students’ exploration of the root locus method the authors present a student centered project involving the construction of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.