Thursday, August 18, 2005

What is research anyway?

Considering I'll be starting grad school shortly, I figured I'd ask myself what really is involved in this so called "research", and what control systems are all about.

What "research " really involves doing is first:
■ Reading lots of papers and other technical literature on the specific field you are studying in, to learn about existing state of the art designs, issues explored and resolved, etc. You don't want to re-invent the wheel persay, but perhaps add something unique to that wheel. You basically need to "build" upon the knowledge of others.
■ Then of course, thinking upon ways to improve things.
■ Trying out different ideas until you find one that works

Control systems, as studied at in my control system classes, were simply:

Given/derive a mathematical frequency domain model of the system, what are the performance issues and how can you improve them. Controls 1 included analog controllers, whereas Controls 2 included discrete control systems (digital).

Although this is an important aspect, it is only 1 side of the coin so to speak. There are many other considerations:
■ Given cost and physical implementation issues, what are appropriate
■ What type of feedback to use for control algorithms.
■ Sensors to provide required feedback
■ Actuators to yield best performance given the physical load you are trying to drive.
■ Power electronic circuitry to drive said actuators.
■ Microcontroller/DSP chip implementation issues.

All this above stuff is just abstrated away in control theory. But, from my experience with Capstone, the above things can be very rewarding.

The first thing I want to fully investigate is why DC motors are still the prime choice for electric power steering. I believe it's simply their ease of controlling the torque, coupled with the fact they are the most readily available/cheapest/oldest most mature technology. This is usually the prime factor in automotive designs. However, the mechanical commutator wear you'd think would be a big issue. Perhaps they've made them such that they last ~100-200K miles. Most new cars aren't designed to really be driven that long anway ;)

I had a good discussion of this stuff, and of gaming, with a retired fire fighter today while waiting for Dani's Focus to be serviced. He's more of a gamer than I am. I really got to get back into gaming.

So I bought a ATI 9800XT for $100 on Ebay. After exams... must study. Blah.


Post a Comment

<< Home