DEVELOPMENT OF A MECHATRONICS EDUCATION SYSTEM FOR MECHANICAL ENGINEERS AT PENN STATE UNIVERSITY

Open Access
Author:
Swanson, Kevin Scott
Area of Honors:
Mechanical Engineering
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Sean N Brennan, Thesis Supervisor
  • Eric Russell Marsh, Faculty Reader
  • Sean Brennan, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Mechatronics
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Education
Abstract:
This thesis seeks to develop an improved program interface for teaching Mechatronics to Mechanical Engineers at Penn State. Mechanical Engineers typically have a weak background in both circuitry and programming, giving Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists an advantage in Mechatronics that is heavily reliant on either approach. However, hardware and software exists that, if used appropriately, can help Mechanical Engineers improve their ability to learn and develop Mechatronics solutions. This thesis explores the use of an Arduino microcontroller, MATLAB, and Simulink to effectively implement data acquisition systems that are an integral part of Mechatronics. These labs require the student to communicate between the microcontroller and PC in two ways. First, the student will connect an Arduino, Ethernet Shield, and WIZnet to a PC running Simulink with an Ethernet connection. This method has the advantage of giving the student an easier programming platform through Simulink’s visual programming structure, along with allowing the student to monitor the data in real time. Second, the student will connect an Arduino to MATLAB via a serial connection. While this method does not contain the benefit of Simulink’s visual programming language, it does provide a simple platform on which the student can plot data. The Arduino to Simulink connection proves to be a very beneficial system for the student. The labs give a base for which the student can do basic Mechatronic functions such as read and write data, or implement advanced control system utilizing the data acquisition system to allow interaction with a real-plant. The Arduino to MATLAB connection will be beneficial to students for the plotting ability. While MATLAB is not a visual language like Simulink, it does provide a relatively simple medium for Mechanical Engineers to collect and plot data. Currently the MATLAB plots are not in “real time” because of slow plotting speeds. Further investigation could improve the MATLAB plotting techniques and increase the benefits of using MATLAB for data acquisition.