If you’ve had the classic engineering education, you probably have a hazy recollection of someone talking about control theory. If you haven’t, you’ve probably at least heard of PID controllers and open loop vs closed loop control. If you don’t know about control theory or even if you just want a refresher, [Brian Douglas] has an excellent set of nearly 50 video lectures that will give you a great introduction to the topic. You can watch the first lecture, below.
You might think that control systems are only useful in electronics when you are trying to control a process like a chemical plant or a temperature. However, control theory shows up in a surprising number of places from filters to oscillators, to the automatic gain control in a receiver. You’ll find the background behind many familiar results inside control theory. Sort of like when you take calculus and you discover how they came up with all the formulas you memorized in geometry.
The presentation style of these videos is good. The first sets of topics are necessarily abstract, but later videos in the series show a robotic vehicle using tracks and an Arduino, a MEMS gyro, and how to land on a planet. If you don’t think control systems are everywhere, consider an example we use when talking to school kids: a toilet. A very simple and very common closed loop control system. Even [Bill Gates] and Caltech agree. Although, honestly, we don’t know what constitutes an “aspirational toileting experience.”
Filed under: how-to