Monday, September 17, 2012

How Top Professors Help Their Students Get The Most Out of a Course

Any good controls professor can show his or her students how a controls experiment works.  But a great controls professor accomplishes much, much more. He or she helps their students see why that controls experiment is so valuable in the real world.

As you probably know, not all students come to their first controls class with a clear idea of why controls are so important. That’s why immediately identifying the importance of controls in sustaining our fast-paced daily lives should be one of the first goals of any controls professor.  Students who are presented with this results-oriented vision will then be ready to invest their time and energy in the task of learning the subject matter—simply because they’ll see the real-world applications that lie beyond the experiments and the theory.

These real-world applications are everywhere. They're found in DVD players and cars that parallel park themselves; in medical robotics and industrial production processes; and in all aspects of manned and unmanned flight, to name a few. The more your students are aware of these everyday applications, the more motivated they will be. These practical, real-life applications involve virtually every modern engineering discipline, including electrical, mechanical, biomedical, chemical, aerospace, unmanned systems, civil, robotics and mechatronics. Individually and collectively, they allow your students to engineer a better world.

No less a controls authority than Dr. Mark Spong agrees.  According to Dr. Spong, Dean of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering & Computer Science, University of Texas at Austin, “The 21st century will be known as the age of automatic control.”  He elaborates: “Most of the critical problems facing society today, in sustainable energy, healthcare, the environment, security, and other areas, will rely on control engineering for solutions.”

The same holds true in the purely industrial realm, notes Dr. Spong.  “Industry is more and more focusing on embedded controls and sensing.  In the automotive industry, everything is drive by wire now: brakes, engine control, everything is becoming mechatronic in that sense.”
By identifying the real-world significance of the study of controls for your class, you will be able to attract, keep and graduate more and better students. You’ll help them focus on clear, professional goals and motivate them to graduate with industry-ready skills. Now what professor wouldn’t want to get their students ready for opportunities like that?

To see how Dr. Spong worked with Quanser to connect the real world with control theory for his students, click here.

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