TEACHING AUTOMATIC CONTROL IN ENGINEERING DEGREES IN THE COVID-19 ERA: SIMULATORS BASED ON PHYSICAL MODELING TOOLS AS ALTERNATIVE

J.E. Traver , C. Nuevo-Gallardo , P. Rodríguez, I. Tejado , E. Pérez , B.M. Vinagre 

University of Extremadura (SPAIN)
The acquisition of practical skills and experimentation play a relevant role in engineering education [1] since they not only make it easier for students to understand and assimilate the contents of a subject, but also help them to acquire the associated competencies required to obtain the engineering degree. That is why laboratory practices are fundamental in the teaching-learning process in this type of degrees. However, teaching in the laboratory of courses corresponding to the knowledge area of Systems Engineering and Automation becomes a challenge for large groups of students (probably, for groups of 10 or more) in terms of equipment: in order for students to do the practices in the most individualized way possible, it is necessary to make a high economic investment, especially considering the price that commercial educational equipment has.

In this context, one of the most effective and reasonable alternatives to support teaching is to use simulators or interactive educational tools of real systems [2, 3] in order to, on the one hand, avoid that students have to wait to test their designs on a real platform and, on the other, can have them at their disposal at all times, and even work at home. Likewise, interactive tools are very popular among young people, so they can be useful to increase students' motivation in learning. This trend becomes even more important in the current situation derived by the COVID-19 pandemic, in which promotes the virtualization of teaching.

In the field of the mentioned knowledge area, there is a considerable number of specialized and general purpose tools available for that end (see e.g. [4, 5] and references therein for a current review). Among them, in this paper we focus on those included in the MATLAB/Simulink package, mainly due to their extended use for both the design and the simulation of control systems.

This paper belongs to an ongoing project to develop new interactive educational resources for education of subjects within Systems Engineering and Automation area. In particular, the aim is to present a simulator of a self-balancing robot to be used for students in courses of Automatic Control in the COVID-19 era, including educational aspects and a guide of use in the classroom.

References:
[1] L. Gomes, J. García-Zubía, Advances on Remote Laboratories and E-learning Experiences. University of Deusto, Bilbao, 2007.
[2] S. Dormido Bencomo, “Control Learning: Present and Future,” Annual Reviews in Control, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 115–136, 2004.
[3] J.L. Guzmán, R. Costa-Castelló, S. Dormido, M. Berenguel, “An Interactive-Based Methodology to Support Control Education,” IEEE Control Systems Magazine 63, pp. 63–76, 2016.
[4] I. Tejado, I. González, E. Pérez, P. Merchán, “Introducing Systems Theory with Virtual Laboratories at the University of Extremadura: How to Improve Learning in the Lab in Engineering Degrees,” International Journal of Electrical Engineering Education, 2019.
[5] R. Heradio, L. de la Torre, S. Dormido, “Virtual and Remote Labs in Control Education: A Survey,” Annual Reviews in Control, vol. 42, pp. 1–10, 2016.