Enhance hands on experience of system and control using low cost LEGO kits

Yi Wu, Charlotte De Vries, Oladipo Onipede, Melanie Ford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


System Dynamics is a required coursed offered to junior Mechanical Engineering students at Pennsylvania State University Erie, the Behrend College. It addresses the intercoupling dynamics of a wide range of dynamic systems: mechanical, electrical, fluid, hydraulic, electromechanical, biomedical, etc. It is a challenging course due to the abstract nature and increased mathematics needed to understand the topic. While hands-on experience can be a useful tool in learning the material, the ready to use units in the market are costly. This paper explores the applications of using low cost LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT kits to add hands-on experience for an undergraduate Systems Dynamics course. The labs include (1) time response of a first order system and transfer function identification and verification, (2) time response of a second order system, and (3) PD controller design. These lab activities use MATLAB®/Simulink® to study the response of LEGO MINDSTORMS units. Technical surveys before and after each lab have been analyzed and show that there is an improvement in students' confidence in topics from system dynamics with the labs. These three lab activities will evolve into two 2-hour labs of a one-credit lab course, Dynamics and Vibration, to be offered in Fall 2016. This lab course will complement the current courses in dynamics and vibration, attracting mechanical engineering students to pursue future careers in the field of dynamics and controls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFIE 2016 - Frontiers in Education 2016
Subtitle of host publicationThe Crossroads of Engineering and Business
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781509017904
StatePublished - Nov 28 2016
Event46th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2016 - Erie, United States
Duration: Oct 12 2016Oct 15 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Other46th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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