Mechatronic aeropendulum: Demonstration of linear and nonlinear feedback control principles with MATLAB/simulink real-time windows target

Eniko T Enikov, Giampiero Campa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


This paper presents a low-cost hands-on experiment for a classical undergraduate controls course for non-electrical engineering majors. The setup consists of a small dc electrical motor attached to one of the ends of a light rod. The motor drives a 2-in propeller and allows the rod to swing. Angular position is measured by a potentiometer attached to the pivot point. A custom-designed circuit board produces the controlled voltage input to the motor. The target board is powered and communicates with the PC through its USB port using a virtual RS-232 port. A simple MATLAB/Simulink module has been created to read the pendulum angle and send a command signal to the motor. The module is based on Real-time Windows Target software, which allows a sampling rate of up to 200 Hz. Students are able to design and test classical PID and phase lead-lag controllers, as well as modern controllers, including state-space controller design combined with feedback linearization. A semester-long series of assignments is described that can be carried out without the need for a specialized laboratory or teaching assistants. The project was tested in a classical control systems design class of senior-level mechanical engineering students. Student feedback and survey data on the effectiveness of the modules are also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-545
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Transactions on Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012



  • Feedback linearization
  • Linear feedback control
  • Real-time control
  • Real-time windows target
  • Simulink

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Education

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