Core Laboratory Information

Core Laboratory usage for the College of Engineering

All introductory feedback control systems courses in the departments of Aerospace Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering use this laboratory for instruction in the basic concepts of control systems with emphasis on frequency and time domain modeling, state variable representations, and laboratory techniques.
After initial introductory simulation studies using both an analog and a digital computer, the students look at identification and control of a DC motor. Additional experiments involve control of a 4th order torsional plant, inverted pendulum, etc. Typical control algorithms might be PD, PID, full state feedback, or observer control. In some courses, students complete a final project, which varies from year to year. Recent final projects have included balancing control and lead compensation of the Pendubot and another inverted pendulum experiment we call the Reaction Wheel Pendulum.

Modular Equipment

All Control Systems lab experiments use modules. These enable experiments ranging from PID control of a simple motor/pot system up to full observer control of a 6th order mass/spring/damper system.

Bench Equipment used by the Control Systems Lab

The core lab is located within 3 lab rooms with 6 benches in each room. The lab benches were made with an optical table top for positioning equipment, and were constructed locally by the ECE machine shop. A typical bench is shown, each of which contains the equipment listed below:

  • Technical Manufacturing Corp. (TMC) Optical Breadboard
  • Custom-built modules-DC motors, tachometers, potentiometers, flywheels, torsion springs, optical encoders, and brakes
  • Hewlett Packard DSO6012A Oscilloscope
  • Hewlett Packard 33120A Function Generator
  • Hewlett Packard 34401A Multimeter
  • Hewlett Packard 6632A DC Power Supply
  • Comdyna GP-6 Analog Computer
  • PC with DAQ card for optical encoder, DAC and ADC
  • Advanced Motion Controls 12A8 PWM Amplifier
  • Agilent GPIB Card
  • Dynamic Research Corp. (DRC) Optical Encoders

Software packages for networking, symbolic and numerical computation, simulation, and real-time control, such as Matlab, LabVIEW, Mathematica, C, and AgilentVee are available. In addition, six HP 35670A Dynamic Signal Analyzers are shared among the lab rooms.

Extra equipment and a demonstration bench are used to bring the lab into the classroom. In addition to this, various labs use Pendubots, reaction wheel pendulums, Furuta-style inverted pendulums, propeller pendulums and a Noise Cancellation Plant and Vibration Table.

Satellite Laboratory Information

The control systems laboratory include the Mechatronics Lab, the Hydraulics Lab and the Robotics Lab.

The mechatronics laboratory uses small mobile robots to teach control algorithms, DSP programming, motor control, image processing, Kalman filtering and other software/hardware integration and mechatronic techniques. Students design and build grippers for their robots, add and control servo motors, and design custom software to help their robots complete real world tasks.

The hydraulics lab teaches control techniques using fluids. many of the same controllers built in the core laboratories using digital or analog electric controllers can be built using hydraulic components.

4 benches using Feedback watertank modules

Four Hydraulic Trainer benches designed and donated by Parker fluidpower division, and four benches using Feedback watertank modules give students hands on experience. Four pnematically-controlled robots allow students to manipulate objects in two dimensions using air as the control fluid.

One of nine Rhino robots In the robotics lab, nine Rhino robots are used to teach robotic conventions, object manipulation, visual servo control and other techniques.


We have developed a network of laboratories to support undergraduate and graduate education in Control Systems Technology in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The cornerstone of our program is a centralized Core Laboratory, The College of Engineering Control Systems Laboratory, which provides basic instruction in feedback control systems to all Departments in the College of Engineering. This core laboratory feeds into a network of satellite laboratories, the Mechatronics Lab, the Hydraulics Lab and the Robotics Lab. The satellite labs are designed to provide both vertical and horizontal integration of control systems and related technology across departmental boundaries in the engineering curriculum.

By elevating control systems laboratory development from the Department level to the College level we have gained a number of advantages including more efficient use of space and equipment, better leveraging of funds, elimination of overlap among individual departmental labs, better integration of control systems technology in the curriculum, the ability to hire a full time professional to manage the laboratory, and increased visibility with industry. At the same time we retain the integrity and autonomy of the separate Departmental curricula.

Mobile robot for mechtronics class
One of 20 robots designed and built at the University of Illinois. These robots are used in one of the satellite laboratories, the Mechatronics Lab.
4 Lab benches designed by Parker
The hydraulics lab uses 4 benches to design control systems using fluidics.

Two Pneumatic robots
Students explore pneumatics control using two air powered robots.

Other Controls Links

Precision. Accuracy. Speed.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Logo Control Systems Instructional Laboratory
University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign
1406 W Green
Urbana, IL 61801-2307