Development and implementation of a mechatronics curriculum for mechanical engineers

Garner, Gavin T, Department of Engineering, University of Virginia
Sheth, Pradip, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Richards, Larry, En-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

The field of Mechanical Engineering is currently experiencing a revolution in its design and implementation of mechanical systems. The advent of inexpensive electronic intelligence in the form of microcontroller chips, which can easily be used to control electromechanical actuators based on sensory input, has allowed modem engineers to replace many complex mechanical devices of the past with simple electromechanical systems that perform the same functions more efficiently. The recent availability of such systems has also inspired engineers to tackle new, more-advanced mechanical designs that would have been impossible using previous techniques. Mechatronics is the name given to this new field of engineering that couples mechanical and electrical systems with the help of computer control.

As this new field of Mechatronics has emerged, it has dramatically changed the nature of Mechanical Engineering design techniques. It has therefore become necessary to develop an educational curriculum that teaches these new concepts effectively. Since Mechatronics is inherently interdisciplinary, involving a synergistic combination of Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science, there 1s currently a great deal of debate as to exactly how and to whom Mechatronics should be taught. Each department will inevitably have to cater its teaching techniques to emphasize the aspect of Mechatronics with which its particular students are already familiar. This thesis documents the development and implementation of an innovative curriculum specifically tailored to teach the underlying concepts of Mechatronics to Mechanical Engineering students at the University of Virginia. Over the last five years, a Mechatronics course has evolved, based on successes and failures, to the point where the fundamentals of Mechatronics can now be presented extremely efficiently within a single-semester, laboratory course. A series of new and original laboratory experiments has been developed to take full advantage of the resources available to the University of Virginia's current Mechatronics laboratory. These labs have been meticulously refined so that a great deal of material can be covered quickly and easily.

Because the future of Mechanical Engineering lies m the technology of Mechatronics, modem mechanical engineers will undoubtedly require a fundamental understanding of how to implement these mechatronic systems into their designs. This pioneering Mechatronics curriculum endeavors to prepare the University of Virginia's Mechanical Engineering graduates with an essential background in this emerging field. This thesis endeavors to be a guide for future Mechatronics instructors at the University of Virginia as well as for those at other universities as they attempt to follow the University of Virginia's lead when developing and restructuring their own Mechatronics curricula.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

MS (Master of Science)
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