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R.P. Ñeco, C. Fernández, M.A. Vicente, R. Puerto

Universidad Miguel Hernández (SPAIN)
In this paper we present two toolboxes for the analysis and design of algebraic digital controllers, used in basic Engineering Control courses, and then we describe some experiences with these tools used in laboratory sessions. These experiences show that the designed toolboxes represent an important complement to help the students to understand the basic concepts of this class of controllers.

The toolboxes described in this paper have some similarities with the well-known program Sisotool, included with Matlab, but it has been extended to allow the analysis and design of three algebraic digital controllers: pole placement, minimum-time and finite-time controllers. So, they are not limited to the classical root locus or frequency-domain methods, and the students have also the possibility of analyzing the controllers using these classical methods. The toolboxes have been designed using Matlab and Sysquake, respectively. Matlab is the most used software in Control Engineering courses and, for this reason the toolbox designed with Matlab is very easy to use for most students. Sysquake is a software tool for understanding systems dynamics. What makes it special is its graphical interactivity and its flexibility to change the interface used by the students.

From an educational point of view, the main advantage of the toolboxes is the interactivity of the graphics shown for each designed controller. For example, the students can design a specific algebraic controller and the toolbox shows the root locus, frequency-domain response and time-domain response for typical input reference signals. Then, they can modify slightly the controller in order to improve the initial design and see the results interactively.

The toolboxes have been used in recent years in some laboratory sessions of a course on Automatic Control in the Miguel Hernández University (Elche, Spain). The experiences described in this paper show that interactive toolboxes are very useful to understand complex relations between different representations of the behavior of the system and, as a consequence, the students are much more motivated and can obtain a deeper knowledge of the basic concepts needed in these courses.