UC Berkeley Mechanical Engineering
ME 230 Realtime applications of microprocessors

(fall - 2006)

This class cracked open the myth of electronics for me.

I started college as a double major in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering (although, I ended up finishing with just the BSME). I always wanted to build robots. I grew up running bulletin board systems (BBS) and my first programming experience was with raytracing in junior high - I have not had a fear of programming. Electronics, on the other hand always seemed mysterious to me. It was this class in combination with another side project (rewiring the bug) that helped me discover how approachable electronics really is. The lecturer, George Anwar, was a fantastic instructor whose low stress description of electronic components and statements such as "oh, just throw a pullup resistor on it," or "drop a 10 microfarad capacitor on it," helped me recognize that one can get a feel for electronics just as they do for mechanics.

In this course Fredrik and I developed a framework for the canonical inverted pendulum problem. We used a National Instruments CompactRIO to read encoders and control a linear brushless dc motor. I machined the base (one long weekend at the PTG machine shop) and wired a breakout board in both spaghetti-wire form and also a printed circuit board. I helped with programming portions of the controller in LabView. Fredrik programmed the final Linear Quadratic Regulator. George helped us get a feel for what stifness "felt" right in the system before bringing it live.

As it turns out George now uses the same hardware platform to teach the undergraduate ME134 Controls course. He ended up replicating the system, we had built, on six more stations and on which the students explore control systems. I learned this just recently when I contacted him searching for replacement parts for another linear bldc motor system I am repairing in my basement.

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