Who is a control engineer
Control systems engineering is an exciting field in which to apply your engineering talents, because it cuts across numerous disciplines and numerous functions within those disciplines.
The control engineer can be found at the top level of large projects, engaged at the conceptual phase in determining or implementing overall system requirements.
These requirements include total system performance specifications, subsystem functions, and the interconnection of these functions, including interface requirements, hardware and software design, and test plans and procedures.
Many engineers are engaged in only one area, such as circuit design or software development. However, as a control systems engineer, you may find yourself working in a broad arena and interacting with people from numerous branches of engineering and the sciences.
For example, if you are working on a biological system, you will need to interact with colleagues in the biological sciences, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer engineering, not to mention mathematics and physics.
You will be working with these engineers at all levels of project development from concept through design and, finally, testing. At the design level, the control systems engineer can be performing hardware selection, design, and interface, including total subsystem design to meet specified requirements. The control engineer can be working with sensors and motors as well as electronic, pneumatic, and hydraulic circuits.
The space shuttle provides another example of the diversity required of the systems engineer. In the previous section, we showed that the space shuttle’s control systems cut across many branches of science: orbital mechanics and propulsion, aerodynamics, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Whether or not you work in the space program, as a control systems engineer you will apply broad-based knowledge to the solution of engineering control problems.
You will have the opportunity to expand your engineering horizons beyond your university curriculum.
You are now aware of future opportunities. But for now, what advantages does this course offer to a student of control systems (other than the fact that you need it to graduate)? Engineering curricula tend to emphasize bottom-up design. That is, you start from the components, develop circuits, and then assemble a product. In top-down design, a highlevel picture of the requirements is first formulated; then the functions and hardware required to implement the system are determined.
You will be able to take a top-down systems approach as a result of this course.
A major reason for not teaching top-down design throughout the curriculum is the high level of mathematics initially required for the systems approach.
For example, control systems theory, which requires differential equations, could not be taught as a lowerdivision course. However, while progressing through bottom-up design courses, it isdifficult to see how such design fits logically into the large picture of the product development cycle.
After completing this control systems course, you will be able to stand back and see how your previous studies fit into the large picture. Your amplifier course or vibrations course will take on new meaning as you begin to see the role design work plays as part of product development.
For example, as engineers, we want to describe the physical world mathematically so that we can create systems that will benefit humanity. You will find that you have indeed acquired, through your previous courses, the ability to model physical systems mathematically, although at the time you might not have understood where in the product development cycle the modeling fits. This course will clarify the analysis and design procedures and show you how the knowledge you acquired fits into the total picture of system design.
Understanding control systems enables students from all branches of engineering to speak a common language and develop an appreciation and working knowledge of the other branches. You will find that there really is not much difference among the branches of engineering as far as the goals and applications are concerned. As you study control systems, you will see this commonality.