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A New Undergraduate Degree in Control Engineering

A New Undergraduate Degree in Control Engineering
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  IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON EDUCATION, VOL. 44, NO. 4, NOVEMBER 2001 399 A New Undergraduate Degree in Control Engineering Ronaldo T. Pena  , Member, IEEE  , Fábio G. Jota  , Member, IEEE  , and Constantino Seixas-Filho  Abstract— In December 1994, the Brazilian government regu-lated three new engineering undergraduate degrees. One such de-gree was in Control and Automation Engineering. The paper dis-cusses how,in Brazil, Control Engineering movedfrom a relativelysmall group of courses within Electrical Engineering curricula toanundergraduatedegreeinitsownright.Itpresentsashortreviewof undergraduate control education in countries around the world.The authors also present an overview of the control engineeringprofession, real-life applications, and state-of-the-art in Brazilianindustries. Finally, the paper describes the major issues taken intoaccountduringtheconceptionofthisnewengineeringdegreeattheFederalUniversityofMinasGerais,BeloHorizonte,Brazil.In1998and 1999 academic years, 40 students were admitted each year forthisdegree.InviewofthehighdemandoftheControlandAutoma-tion Engineering degree by the prospective engineering students,since February 2000, the number of places has been increased to80 students per year.  Index Terms— Control and automation engineering degree, con-trol engineering education, control engineering in Brazil. I. I NTRODUCTION B RAZILIAN universities have been conferring engineeringB.S. degrees since the early 1900s. However, the researchin engineering started only in the 1960s with the beginning of the engineering graduate programs in Brazil. Since 1968, aftera major reform, the Brazilian Universities in general have beenfollowing the North American University system, having theirstructure centered on academic departments.In general, the Brazilian control engineering research groupsbelong to the Electrical Engineering Departments. Most of theearly Brazilian control engineering professors had graduatedabroad, in electrical engineering programs. The immediate con-sequence is that most of the control engineering teaching inBrazilian Universities has been performed in electrical engi-neering courses and has been, in general, theoretically oriented.Although electrical engineering departments work well incontrol theory, the great majority of the Brazilian processengineering departments do not work with control engineering.They, essentially, do process engineering. Exceptions can befound in the aeronautic and aerospace area.In the 1980s, under the demand from industry, mainly fromthe steel and oil industries, some control engineering researchgroups from electrical engineering departments began focusingupon process control problems. On the other hand, a few de-partments from the process engineering area started admittingprofessors with background in control engineering. Manuscript received April 9, 2001; revised July 31, 2001.The authors are with Department of Electronics Engineering, FederalUniversity of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte MG 30.161-970, Brazil ( Item Identifier S 0018-9359(01)09872-7. Electrical engineering seniors began having courses in thecontrol applications area. The control engineering undergrad-uate degree, created by the federal government in 1994, is aconsequence of this movement toward the application of con-trol theory to real industrial problems.This paper presents the ideas and experiences supporting theControl and Automation Engineering undergraduate degree of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), which beganreceiving students in the 1998 academic year. Among others,two papers presented in the IFAC/IEEE Symposium on Ad-vances in Control Education, ACE2000, support strongly ini-tiatives, such as the one described in this paper, that lead to theformation of the Control and Automation Engineers.Antsaklis [1], in the first ACE2000 plenary session, statedthat the field of control science and engineering is entering agolden age of unprecedented growth and opportunity. “Controlsystems technology is the cornerstone of the new automa-tion revolution occurring in such diverse areas as householdappliances, consumer electronics, automotive and aerospacesystems, manufacturing systems, chemical processes, civiland environmental systems, transportation systems, end evenbiological, economic and medical systems” [1]. For Gruyitchand Nesic [2], the field of control engineering has reached itsmaturity as a scientific and engineering discipline. Analysis,synthesis, design, implementation, maintenance and devel-opment of control devices demand highly responsible, fullycompetent and complete Control and Automation Engineers.The Control and Automation degree at UFMG fulfills theabove-mentioned gap. The experience with this new engi-neering degree, in Brazil, began at the Federal University of Santa Catarina [3].II. U NDERGRADUATE  C ONTROL  E NGINEERING  E DUCATION A ROUND THE  W ORLD An analysis of the undergraduate control education in uni-versities around the world reveals different scenarios. Basically,they can be grouped in three different categories: 1) a few con-trolcoursesinotherengineeringdegrees;2)engineeringdegreeswithsomespecializationincontrol;and3)acontrolengineeringdegree in its own right.  A. Few Control Courses in Other Engineering Degrees ThisisthemostcommonsituationinwhichEE,ME,andChEstudents take one to three one-semester courses in control. Itcan be found, among other countries, in the Arab countries [4],Australia [5], [6], Chile [7], China [8], Thailand [9], in manyAmerican universities, and in most Brazilian universities. Thecourse programs, in these cases, range from Classical Controland Elementary State-Space Theory to Advanced Control. 0018–9359/01$10.00 © 2001 IEEE  400 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON EDUCATION, VOL. 44, NO. 4, NOVEMBER 2001 In the United States, for example, the Control and DynamicalSystems Department at the California Institute of Technology,Pasadena, offers a one-year undergraduate control course forstudents in Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering,Aeronautics, and Electrical Engineering [10]. At CarnegieMellon University, there is a “designated minor” in automationand control comprising one undergraduate course each infundamentals of controls, control system analysis and design,computing and software or control applications, and an addi-tional elective in any one of the above areas [11].In Brazil, most universities offer a relatively large numberof (elective) courses from which the students choose the onesthat best match their particular interests, in general, followingpredefined sequences of suggested subjects.  B. Engineering Degrees With a Major in Control This scenario is present in some Japanese, German, SouthAfrican, British and North American universities.In Japan, although professors of control are scattered amonga variety of departments (from Electrical to Biophysical Engi-neering, fromAppliedMathematics toIndustrial Management),departments of Control Engineering are present in most of themain universities. Several hundred Japanese students are ma- joring in Automatic Control every year [12].Likewise, German [13] and South African [14] universitiesoffer a specialization in Control Engineering. Ruhr University,in Germany, for example, is considering the increase in themandatory control courses. They seem to be moving toward afull degree in Automation and Control Engineering [15], [16].In France, engineering education is divided into a set of physics and mathematics courses, taken in a two-year period ata Preparatory School, followed by three years of engineeringcourses taken in a National School (Grande Ecole). At the Na-tional Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse, Electrical Engineeringstudents have, in the first year, a general scientific education.The second year is centered in a specific education. In thisyear, automatic control and industrial informatics and signalprocessing are two of the three technological core areas. Thethird year assures the transition between theoretical study andthe practical work of an engineer. Moreover, it may introducethe Advanced Studies Certificate in Automatic Control [17].In Sweden, engineering education follows the central Euro-pean systems with a 4.5-year program leading up to the de-gree “civilingenjör,” which is equivalent to an M.S. in the U.S.and British system. At the Lund Institute of Technology, auto-matic control courses are taught as part of the engineering cur-ricula in engineering physics, electrical engineering, computerengineering,mechanicalengineering,andchemicalengineering[18].In the United Kingdom, where many of the more than 100universities have significant teaching and research activitiesin control engineering, the basics of control are taught to allengineering undergraduates. Nevertheless, the Electrical andElectronic Department at Imperial College, for example, offerstwo-year core courses, which include a classical feedback control theory course. After that, two full years of controlcourses are taught to those students that take the controlengineering option. In the University of Cambridge, on theother hand, the engineering curriculum provides an informationengineering course, which covers very well classical controlsubjects in theoretical and lab classes. In their third and fourthyear, students can take courses leading to a specialization incontrol and signal processing [19]. At the University of Oxford,the first year is common to all four (chemical, electrical, civil,mechanical) engineering courses; in the second and third years,five core subjects (covering the essential foundations of generalengineering) are studied: Control, Dynamics, and Computersis one of these core classes. Two other areas to be studied ingreaterdepthhavetobechosenfromfivepossibilities(basicallythe four engineering courses plus information engineering).In the final year, students can choose three specialist options,which generally follow up on the ones they have chosen in thethird year [20].Control courses at Stanford University in the United Statesare organized as engineering courses. They are developedand taught by the faculty of EE, ME, and Aeronautics andAstronomy departments. The EE seniors are required to take asequence of specialty courses. Control courses comprise one of these sequences. The topics are introductory control, nonlinearcontrol, and a control project laboratory where students designand construct a complete control system [21]. Princeton Uni-versity offers a certificate program in Robotics and IntelligentSystems. Students working for a B.S.E. or A.B. degree in oneof the traditional departments can earn the certificate by takingsix qualifying courses and doing a senior thesis in the field. EEstudents may elect to concentrate in control and automation[22]. C. Specific Degree in Control Engineering The literature review about undergraduate control educationshows that universities in many other countries as well as inBrazil also offer a specific B.S. degree in control engineering.IntheUnitedKingdom,forexample,theDepartmentofElec-trical Engineering and Electronics at the University of Man-chester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) confers adegree in Communications and Control Engineering [23]. TheUniversity of Sheffield has a separate Department of AutomaticControl and Systems Engineering, which offers its own degreewith full coverage on all aspects of control theory [24].Indian Universities offer degree in Instrumentation and Con-trol [25]. In Australia, the Murdoch University offers a degreein Process Control [26]. In Greece, the University of Patras [27]andtheTechnologicalEducationalInstituteofPiraeus[28]offercurricula in Control and Automation. Specifically, the TEI Pi-raeus Automation Department offers a four-year curriculum di-vided into eight semesters. The focus of the curriculum is onautomatic control theory and its industrial applications.ControleducationinRussiahassolidtraditions.Thetechnicalinstitutes are graduating engineers in Automation of IndustrialProcesses since the early 1950s. Interestingly, the first Russiancontroltextbookwaspublishedin1909byProf.Gukovskii,whowas teaching a control course at that time. Although much canbe said about the contributions of Russian mathematicians inthe early times of the control sciences, the control education inthat country began in EE and ME departments. In the 1970s, theInstituteofAutomation andRemote Control(IARC) foundedin  PENA  et al. : A NEW UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE IN CONTROL ENGINEERING 401 1939hadastaffofabout1800workingpersons,includingabout500 doctors and 500 engineers [29].The Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) graduated, in1997, 45% of all degrees in technology, in Finland [30]. TheHUT Department of Automation and Systems Technology wasopened in 1997 and, since then, every year 40 to 50 students areentering for a specific degree in the area [31].In the United States, the MIT Department of Aeronauticsand Astronautics, in 1999, moved toward a specific B.S. De-gree in Control Engineering. They replaced their degree withtwo new degrees: 1) B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and 2) Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology. Whiletheformer isatraditionalaerospaceengineeringdegree,withanemphasis on disciplines related to the engineering of aerospacevehicles, the new degree emphasizes the information technolo-gies now necessary in the construction of modern aerospacesystems. It reflects the Department’s new thrust in AerospaceInformation Engineering. There is an increased emphasis oninformation engineering with the objective of preparing engi-neers for the conception, design, implementation and operationof aerospace, and related engineering systems [32].At Case Western Reserve University, the Electrical En-gineering and Computer Sciences Department offers a in Systems and Control Engineering, which was thefirst of its kind to be accredited by the Accreditation Board forEngineering and Technology in the United States [33], [34].They also offer a total of five (15 credit hours) courses to confera minor in Systems and Control Engineering. There are threeelective sequences available within their Systems and ControlEngineering B.S. degree curriculum: 1) Control Systems;2) Systems Analysis; and 3) Industrial and ManufacturingSystems [34].There are similarities between the degree in Systems andControl Engineering at Case Western Reserve University andthe new degree at UFMG, mainly in what concerns interdis-ciplinarity. Two main differences are that, at UFMG, studentshave a rather comprehensive set of formal process-relatedcourses that provide special training and help develop specificskills. Another difference is that at UFMG the number of re-quired courses is significantly greater; and, consequently, thereis a greater variety of optional courses, all related to controlengineering and automation; that students can choose from.III. C ONTROL  E NGINEERING  P RACTICE IN  B RAZIL The development of control engineering in Brazil followedthe model of implantation of automation systems in theBrazilian industry. In its first phase, during the early 1970s,the steel and oil segments initiated a process of automation,importing systems from Japan, Europe, and from the UnitedStates. In this phase, Brazilian technicians learned how to useinstruments produced abroad and basic control techniques,like tuning of PID controllers. The next phase was associatedwith the government decision of restricting the importation of digital equipment. This decision forced Brazilian companies todevelop their own products, sometimes, in association with atechnological partner.The aeronautical industry, mainly using highly qualifiedBrazilian engineers and doctors, graduated mostly in Franceand the United States, became the leader in the application of advanced control engineering. The local industry was capableof producing basic instruments, such as digital controllersand computers for use in process control. Some well-estab-lished international companies, such as Digital Equipment,Hewlett Packard, Bailey, Fisher Controls, etc., maintainedtheir positions importing spare parts or producing equipment,following a nationalization program. The control revolution, atthis point, reached basically the more sophisticated and moneyintensive industries: paper, steel, petroleum and gas, chemicaland minerals.In this phase the goal was to accomplish basic controltasks and process supervision. Traditional operating panelswith conventional bottoms, lamps and thumbwheel-conductedoperations were used. Later, the use of Programmable LogicControllers in substitution to relay logic became popular anddistributedcontrol systemsand SCADA systemswere installed.In the 1990s, with the opening of the Brazilian economy, awholespectrumofinternationalproductsbecameavailable;and,as a consequence, the control community matured. The partic-ipation in international societies like IEEE and ISA (The Inter-national Society for Measurement and Control) became popularamong professional engineers.The target in Brazilian industries, nowadays, is not only toachieve process control, operation and supervision, but mainlyprocess optimization. The concerns with personnel reductionand energy savings associated with the international competi-tion, which increase pressure to reduce production costs andimprove product quality, forced the more traditional industriesinto the process of automation. The very conservative cementindustry suffered a drastic modernization with the adoption of automation, including optical temperature scanners, on-line gasanalyzers up to real time expert systems that were used for thefull automation of kilns and grinding circuits. Foods, beverage,automotive,and,evenfamiliarindustries,likeclothesandshoes;all began an urgent process of automation.The relatively low price of the automation products allows awhole class of small companies to follow this trend. The prod-uctsinvolvedareveryup-to-date.Anewclassofcontrolcompa-nies is being created in Brazil. They are facing the internationalcompetition and are exporting equipment and systems. Thosecompanies are selling products like programmable logic con-trollers, fieldbus instrumentation, SCADA systems, and dedi-cated aluminum pot line automation systems, just to mentionsome, to several countries including the United States and Eu-ropean countries.In this scenario, the proposition of a specific undergraduatedegree in Control and Automation Engineering became natural.IV. R EASONS FOR A  S ELF -C ONTAINED  D EGREE IN  C ONTROLAND  A UTOMATION  E NGINEERING Systems and control engineering is a “cross-disciplinary”discipline. In general, engineers seek problem solutions fromtheir own area. Control engineers analyze and solve engi-neering problems combining different technologies, across  402 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON EDUCATION, VOL. 44, NO. 4, NOVEMBER 2001 the boundaries between disciplines. Many of the fundamentaltools of the field arise from applied mathematics, computerengineering,andcomputerscience.Therangeofsystemdesign,analysis, and control problems includes industrial and man-agement systems, biological and environmental systems, andeconomic systems [32]. The need for Control and AutomationEngineers in this coming century will strongly increase [2].The systems and control engineering B.S. program shall pro-vide the students with the basic concepts, analytical tools, andengineering methods, which are useful in analyzing and de-signing complex technological and nontechnological systems.Problems relating to modeling, decision-making, control andoptimization must be studied. The relationship and interactionamong the various components of a given system must be mod-eled.Thisinformationisusedtodeterminethebestwayofcoor-dinating and regulating their individual contributions to achievethe overall goal of the system. What may be best for an indi-vidual component of the system may not be the best for thesystem as a whole.Therefore, the control engineers must have an engineeringeducation that yields the ability to develop an integrative work.Such a professional can be considered as a systems engineeroriented to the design, implementation, use, management, andmaintenance of automatic systems.In thegreatmajorityof Brazilianuniversities,control courseshavebeenseenaspartoftheEEdegree.However,thenewBach-elor degree in Control and Automation Engineering, as pre-sentedinthefollowingsections,fundamentallydiffersfromthatof electrical engineering in the following aspects.1) It can beseen asa “horizontal” (multidisciplinary)degreecovering a wider range of subjects.2) The field of application of the degree ranges from bio-logical, chemical, thermal, automotive, electric, miningand metal systems, to domestic, commercial and bankingsystems.3) The degree in Control and Automation Engineering isconcernedwiththeprocesstobeautomatedorcontrolled,not exclusively with the electrical/electronic equipment.4) In the last two semesters of the course, students will beasked to develop a complete design (called “Final YearProject”) for a system they have chosen to automate.The Control Engineer has to be prepared to work in theprocess industries as well as in the control hardware andsoftware maker companies. The students are educated to: 1)conceive and install automatic production units; 2) performchanges in order to operate old production units in an automaticway; 3) maintain and optimize automatic production units; and4) specify, conceive, develop, and implement hardware andsoftware for control and automation.The previous arguments seem to show that neither electricalengineering nor any other conventional degrees in engineeringis capable of giving the necessary background for a student whowants to work professionally in control and automation. Fur-thermore, the complexity and diversity found in control theory,processmodeling,andon-linecomputercontrolrequiresabetterand deeper understanding of the particular problems of eachfield of application.V. T HE  C ONTROL AND  A UTOMATION  E NGINEERING C URRICULUM AT  UFMG  A. General Aspects As established in 1994 by a Brazilian Ministry of Educa-tion Regulatory Act, the basic technical formation subjects aremathematics, physics, chemistry, computer sciences, and trans-portphenomena.Thegeneraleducationsubjectsarehumanities,law, economics, and environmental sciences. The general tech-nical classes are Process Control, Industrial Systems, Instru-mentation, Discrete Mathematics for Automation, Industrial In-formatics, Systems Integration, and Evaluation and ProductionSystems Management. Each University, after teaching the sub- jects pointed out above, can complement the degree with otherspecificsubjects,taughtincoursesthatbest characterizeitsowndegree.The new curriculum at UFMG has been designed to enabletheControland Automation EngineerB.S. to:1) Developmath-ematical models of dynamic processes and systems; 2) evaluatecontrol systems performance; 3) establish control strategies toyield adequate system behavior; 4) specify subsystems, mod-ules and parts for sensors, controllers, and actuators; 5) tunecontrollers; 6) deal with the main problems arising from non-linearities and dead times in control systems; 7) apply advancedcontrol techniques; 8) Apply the main languages and operatingsystems used in the control and automation engineering area;and 9) develop, in an adequate language, communication soft-ware among units and for the man–machine interface.  B. Courses in the Curriculum1) Curriculum Overview:  Table I shows a synthesis of thecourses’ credit hours, grouped by subjects. The total number of hours is 3660, to be accomplished in five years, in two annual15-week terms.Apart from boosting students’ motivation, the inclusion of specific professional cycle courses since the first semester aimsat bridging the gap between basic knowledge (mathematics andphysics) and engineering applications.The innovations of the Control and Automation Engineeringdegree, in comparison to other Brazilian engineering degreesare: 1) The total time spent in lectures has been reduced; 2) thedegree relies on multidisciplinary projects which require an ac-tiveattitudebythestudent,especiallyinlaboratories;3)theaca-demic activities of two consecutive semesters have been con-centrated in the mornings in order to allow the students to getpart-time training jobs in the afternoons; 4) optional coursesin entrepreneurship area are provided for the more business-mindedstudents; 5) mostprocessengineeringdepartments havebeen involved, with optional courses in the curriculum; and 6)a “final year project” course has been included as a means of assessing both student and degree success.Finally, another innovative policy is the concern about con-tacts among the students and the real engineering work market.To accomplish this goal, all students, in groups of two, are sentforshort-term(oneweek)technicalvisitstotheareacompanies.These visits occur twice a year, during the school vacation pe-riods after the first semester. The technical visits, arranged bythe University, are organized such that a student shall not repeat  PENA  et al. : A NEW UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE IN CONTROL ENGINEERING 403 TABLE IC OURSES  C REDIT  H OURS a visit to the same company. This program of visits has had asmashing success among the students.In the last two years, the students will be encouraged to takepart-time positions as trainees in companies around the campusarea. 2) OptionalCourses:  Duringtheprofessionalcycle,besidessome compulsory courses, the student will take 645 hours of optional courses. They can be chosen, under supervision of afaculty member, from the following sets:•  Process courses : The aim of each course is to describe therespective area processes, namely: 1) chemical, 2) met-allurgical, 3) mineral, 4) transportation, 5) biological,6) electrical, 7) thermal,8) automotive,9)manufacturing.•  Control Engineering : 1) system modeling techniques,2) stochastic processes, 3) stochastic control, 4) introduc-tion to adaptive control, 5) multivariable control, 6) topicsin process control, 7) topics in control theory, 8) topicsin industrial instrumentation, 9) topics in automation andcontrol.•  ArtificialIntelligence :1)fuzzysystems,2)artificialneuralnetworks, 3) introduction to database systems, 4) topics inrobotics, 5) topics in artificial intelligence.•  Industrial Computing Systems : 1) automation systemprograms design, 2) computer-aided design and manufac-turing.•  Electrical Engineering : 1) industrial electricity, 2) elec-tromagnetic compatibility for control, 3) communicationprinciples.•  Production Management Engineering : 1) managing thedevelopment of industrial automation systems, 2) opera-tional safety and reliability.Altogether, 19 departments serve the control and automationdegree at UFMG. A board runs the degree with members ap-pointed by the departments with major involvement in the cur-riculum. There is also a student representative. The board is re-sponsible for all academic matters related to the degree, suchas: prerequisite chain, course programs, etc. The departments,on the other hand, supply the necessary resources to keep theirown courses running: professors, lecture rooms, laboratories,etc. The degree board establishes, from a set of courses offeredby the departments, the ones that best compose the curriculum.VI. P ERSPECTIVES OF THE  I MPACT OF THE  N EW  E NGINEERS INTHE  B RAZILIAN  E NGINEERING At first sight, one could imagine that the new undergrad-uate degree represents an over specialization. However, CaseWestern Reserve University officials claim that their Systemsand Control Engineers find positions in both the private andin the public (governmental) sector. About half enter graduateschool, where they are valued because of the general purposeengineering problem-solving skills that they possess and be-cause they are especially capable of adapting to new technologychanges [34].The argument of those against a specific degree in Controland Automation Engineering is that undergraduate coursesshould give the students a sound basis for future developmentand specialization; an excessive emphasis in control theorycould distort the student formation in detriment of more generalconcepts, generally found in electrical engineering programs.In thislineof thought,automation seemstobemore appropriateas an emphasis of the traditional Electrical Engineering degreethan a new degree by itself.The reality is just the opposite. The new Control and Au-tomation Engineering curriculum is, infact, amore general pro-gram than the traditional engineering degrees. The students willreceive a broad formation involving courses of several engi-neering departments: electronics, electrical, computer sciences,mechanical, chemical, metallurgical, mining and industrial pro-duction. The aim is to have a professional fully capable of un-derstanding a complex environment and finding appropriate so-lutionsbasedonasecureandformalgroundformationinseveralfields.It is unusual to find an electrical engineer as the IndustrialDirector or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an industrialplant in Brazil. Process-related engineers have greater ad-vantages in such a competition. Chemical, metallurgical,mining, and mechanical engineers are more at home whendeciding about the concepts that guide the future of a chemical,petrochemical, pulp and paper, mineral, steel, fertilizer, andother process-based plants. They are more used to discussingthe physical phenomena at the heart of the industry’s business.From the beginning of their careers they will be involved in themain organization’s issues, discussing management operationand research problems with top managers and will occupy themain positions. Electrical engineers, on the other hand, have asomewhat side career, acting as a support professional.The authors expect that the control and automation engineergraduated at UFMG will have the necessary skills to be a con-fident person and will be a serious candidate to the best posi-tions. He/she will know about the phenomena taking place inmany process industries, will have a solid foundation in the
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