The Vertical Integration of Mechatronics at Virginia Tech
Grove, Donald E.
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The focus of this thesis is on the vertical integration of mechatronics in the mechanical engineering curriculum at Virginia Tech. It reports the details of an experimental strategy to integrate mechatronics at an early level in the education of engineers. A proposal was submitted to and accepted by the NSF/SUCCEED coalition to fund this experiment. Through this assistance, the experiment of vertically integrating mechatronics was initiated. The methodology in which it was integrated is presented -- through optional participation in a sophomore design class and a required design project in a junior system dynamics course. The material developed for the vertical integration of mechatronics is in the appendices. This material is appropriate for other institutions to use to vertically integrate mechatronics into their curriculums, which is part of the NSF/SUCCEED coalitionâ s initiative. For the sophomore class, ME 2024, Introduction to Engineering Design and Economics, selected sections were exposed to the concepts of mechatronic design, along with the normal course material. Students in the mechatronic sections were given an opportunity to incorporate the use of a custom-built VT Project Box and the PIC Visual Development (PVD) software, both of which were created specifically for the task of vertical integration of mechatronics. Throughout the semester, the students were given several demonstrations of mechatronic systems through the use of the project box and software. Many students decided to implement mechatronic concepts in their final design projects. A smaller number of students made a decision to use the project box and software to develop a prototype of their final design project. Candid remarks about the students experiences, obtained from a survey at the semesterâ s end, indicated that the vertical integration of mechatronics was a motivational feature in the second-year curriculum. For the junior class, ME 3514, System Dynamics, all sections were exposed to the concepts of mechatronics, along with the normal course material. The students were required to acquire steady-state velocity data from a DC motor and create an analytical model of the motor to predict the steady-state velocity for a given duty cycle of a pulse-width modulated controller. After the collection of the data and the creation of the analytical model, the students compared the results of simulations to the actual data collected, and report the comparison to the instructor in a memorandum. The collection of the steady-state velocity data was accomplished using the PVD software and the VT Project Box. The essentials of mechatronics was communicated to the students in two lectures, and the students gained hands-on experience with mechatronics through the use of the project box and the software. The lecture material covered the basics of mechatronics, the Mechatronics course at Virginia Tech, and detailed information about the design project. The assessment of the vertical integration of mechatronics into this junior course was accomplished by surveying all of the students in the course. The results of the survey indicated that the inclusion of mechatronics material increased the students understanding of the course material and also increased their interest in mechatronics.
- Masters Theses