DESIGN OF A VIRTUAL LABORATORY AND A SET OF PRACTICAL SESSIONS IN STATE-SPACE CONTROL
This paper presents a simulation software developed for an optional subject in the fourth year of the Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Engineering and Industrial Automation, in the Miguel Hernandez University, Elche (Spain). In this subject, students learn how to model dynamic systems and design different types of controls in the state space.
In the course of this subject, several practical sessions have been scheduled face-to-face in the laboratory, with the aim that students gain practical knowledge and experience. For instance, there is a session in which students have to control a servomotor putting into practice the concepts studied in the theoretical classes. However, it would be interesting that they could try to control more complex systems. This implies a challenge, since providing the laboratory with different systems would suppose high costs. Besides, the laboratory sessions present other disadvantages, such as time and place limitations.
To overcome these problems, we have developed an educational resource as an alternative (or a supplement) to real laboratories. This educational platform is a web-based virtual laboratory, so it presents several advantages. The main one is that students can access anytime and anywhere without the need of installing any software on their computers (only an internet connection is required). Also, due to the fact that it is a virtual system, the parameters of the plant can be configured (e.g. it is not often possible in real systems) in order to obtain different plants for the same system.
In the past months, the universities have had to overcome the challenges entailed by COVID-19. This virtual laboratory has proved to be an alternative to the laboratory sessions. This way, students have improved their practical knowledge without the need to attend the laboratory.
This virtual laboratory contains two hydraulic and nonlinear systems. The difference between them is that one is a SISO (Single-Input and Single-Output) system, and the other is a MIMO (Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output) system. In the theoretical sessions, different techniques to control a system in the state space are taught. All of them have been implemented in this platform, besides it offers the option of using a controller based on classical control theory. Once the students design the control parameters mathematically, they have to introduce the values in the application. The evolution of the controlled system is visualized through a graphical representation and an animation of the virtual plant. In this manner, they can test the controller that they have designed and check whether the output reaches the established specifications. Moreover, the platform permits selecting the original model of the system and checking its behaviour depending on these control parameters.
Therefore, this virtual laboratory allows students to put into practice the concepts studied in this subject since they have to calculate the parameters to control the system using one of the techniques learnt in the classroom. After that, they can visualize the performance of the system with the selected control type and check if the designed controller works correctly with the original nonlinear plant.