Draft file: Curriculum For BEng Controls Systems
Background and Justification
Control engineering has generally been a masters degree specialisation course, and people without any history with it, save for having or proving sufficient mathematical ability may be admitted to the course. Given the typical jobs available to graduates of these programs, and the typical mathematical prerequisites, most people who further in this area would have first degrees with a lot of mathematical content. It is therefore a specialisation typically followed by graduates of engineering degrees. But the concepts are not so advanced that they can’t be learned in a well structured undergraduate degree programme.
There’s little time, particularly in a one-year masters programme, to deal with many details. This makes the one-year programmes necessarily intensive and/or narrowly focused if they are to be efficient. Arguably, the two-year courses are better, but perhaps too long, in my opinion, for a ‘masters’ degree with no apprenticeship/internship content. A first degree in this field provides more opportunities for details and internships.
Modelling and controls admits applications, in addition to the typical engineering systems, in biological, chemical, social, and economic systems: generally, anything that can be identified as a system, with inputs, outputs, and a process linking them. This supports a feeling that systems, cybernetics and control be treated together, and be regarded as a foundational engineering degree. The students, if they choose, can then go on to a specialist masters degree in an application area. Thus a well structured first degree in this area would provide the necessary foundational background in at least one other area for potential future specialisation (a minor). We’ve chosen software engineering for the programme presented here, but there are other options.
The fundamental reason for electronics in mechanical (and several other) systems is control. The motivation for modelling, beyond understanding a system’s behaviour, is control. And control systems are ubiquitous. There is a sufficient body of knowledge suitable to an undergraduate degree to make this a unique option for a first degree. Mechatronics is increasingly popular as a first degree, and computer engineering got her separation from electronics engineering long ego. Control systems engineering is, perhaps, more generally applicable than these two fields, and the graduates have a broadening scope for employment; it thus has a case to be a first degree.
Providing a modelling and control option as a first degree automatically places control engineering in the list of options for high-school students seeking to enter university. This would naturally generate some questions on what it is about at that level, thus helping to generate interest and get new entrants into the field.