Getting Started With Control Engineering
Q: I have some rather old books on Control Engineering that have material similar to the Wikibook on "Control Systems" ( http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Control_systems ) and I was wondering if this material is a good way to get started in Control Systems Engineering. Actually, I am thinking of trying to get a thesis (undergraduate diploma project) in this field later on this year. I'm an Electrical Engineering student in Athens, Greece but the Control Division in our School is in a big mess and I'm not sure if it's a good idea. Any advice or support is very welcome.
A: That looks like classical "modern" control theory (never call something "modern" unless you're 80 -- if you call it "modern" when you're 30 you'll look stupid in 50 years). The "modern" control theory that was developed in the 1950s is still the basis for all of the current control theory development, and it doesn't change. Furthermore, on a per-dollar basis most of the work in control systems is either done using 1950 control theory, or it's done by guess and by gosh. So that would be a good place to start. I can't begin to tell you what to do about the fact that your school has a messed-up control division. You need to make the decision yourself, but if you're absolutely determined to do control the choices I see are to: A: Concentrate on something related, like communications systems, then either be happy doing that, or get a Master's degree in control at a different school. There is a lot of common ground between low-level communications systems theory and control theory. I studied both, I consult with both, and I'm constantly improving my practice of the one with things that I learned doing the other. B: Change schools. If you're only a year away from graduation this could be a pain -- I know that the picky US schools have a 2-year residency requirement, and even the lesser state schools have a one-year residency requirement. I actually transferred in to a school with a 2-year residency requirement when I was only one year away from my bachelor's, but I did it by promising to get my Master's degree there, too. This only worked because it was a small, flexible school C: Get your degree in controls anyway. Depending on how messed up things are, how determined you are, how smart you are, and how resourceful you are, this could either be a success or a disaster. I wouldn't recommend it unless you can really go out and get stuff done on your own _and_ there is at least one good controls faculty member that you can latch onto for help. If the whole faculty sucks then it's best to revisit options A or B. D: In the US, mechanical engineering departments often give control systems degrees in parallel to the electrical engineering department. I'm starting to see a groundswell of support among software departments for yet another parallel track (just in time for sales of my book). You may be able to switch majors to an ME, or arrange to take the necessary courses from that department.