In November 2013 I was asked by the PR of the Mechanical Engineering department of the TU/e to write a story about myself and how I perceived the master Systems & Control. It would be used as a testimonial on the TU/e website. In the end only a part of my full story was incorporated, below is the full-text which I submitted.
Hello, my name is Wouter Geelen. Currently I am following the Master Systems & Control at the Eindhoven University of Technology. First I will tell you something about why I decided for the Master System & Control, then something about how I experience the Master track and what currently keeps my life occupied.
When I was finished with my Bachelor in Mechatronics (HBO) it was clear to me that I wanted to continue studying. Choosing at which University I wanted to do my Master was a really easy choice for myself for 2 main reasons. Firstly, since I was raised in a small town in the province of Limburg and did not yet wanted to drift off to far from my roots and secondly I did two years of my Bachelor in Germany near Düsseldorf and at that time I still went regularly to Germany to visit friends. Therefor I decided that the University in Eindhoven was best the best choice. However, choosing the master was a really hard and difficult decision. After a Bachelor in Mechatronics there are several possible Masters which you can choose from. In my case there were basically two options: i) Embedded Systems or ii) Systems & Control.
During my graduation project for my Bachelor I created a double inverted pendulum (video) which would be a typical project for students from Systems & Control, but with the knowledge at that time it was a difficult problem for myself. However, I successfully completed the project. After a lot of talking with my former teachers and a graduate from Systems & Control, who helped me with my graduation project, I decided to start with the Master Embedded Systems and that I would choose several Systems & Control courses in my free electives. When you come from a University of Applied Sciences you will have to do a pre Master first, before you can actually start with the “real” Master. I did the pre Master of Embedded Systems, it had a lot of fun and interesting courses. After I finished the pre Master and had started with the real Master it started nagging me that the control courses which I wanted to do for my electives where really hard because of a knowledge gap. Furthermore, the master Embedded Systems also focused really on energy-efficient chip design which I really did not find interesting at all. I am the type of person which just wants to pick a chip from the shelve after which I work my magic on it. For those two reasons I decided to switch to Systems & Control. Luckily most of the courses of the pre Master of Systems & Control where the same as the pre Master of Embedded Systems so I finished it quickly. Furthermore, after asking the examination board of Systems & Control for permission, I could take 3 courses from Embedded Systems with me to the Systems & Control. So luckily that detour of half a year Embedded Systems was not a complete waste.
The core program of Systems & Control covers really all the basics about control engineering and the whole cycle of model based design. There are very theoretical courses but also very practical courses, which, I think is perfect for a University of Technology. You can then namely apply what you learnt in your theoretical courses in your practical courses. You also have a lot of freedom in choosing your electives: i) there are a lot of elective courses from which you can choose from and ii) if there is a course which you really like but is unfortunately not on the list then, if you have good arguments, you can ask the examination board for permission. Which I did as you have read earlier.
For a lot of courses you have to work together with another student or a group of students. Which is nice since most students in System & Control all have a different background, as well in study, as in culture. As such groups get really mixed up, which is good for learning how to work with a very diverse group of people. Also all the Professors excel in their field of expertise, they really challenge you during college. Since the TU/e is a small University you really get to know them and can almost always ask them anything if you don’t understand something. So the distance between you as a student and the Professor is really small.
Inside the master Systems & Control there are several specialization groups. At first I did choose for the Hybrid Systems group. However , during the summer they did merge with the Control Systems Technology group, which made them one of the strongest groups at the TU/e and one of the strongest in control theory worldwide. The reason why I did choose for this group is very simple. During my graduation presentation of the double inverted pendulum I was asked if I could compute the best possible transition between the two controllers. The system namely consisted out of two controllers one for bringing the pendulum in upwards position and one for stabilizing it. At that time I could not answer that question yet, but now and thanks to the help of Hybrid Systems, which combines continuous and discrete systems, I can answer that question! Which makes me feel kind of proud of myself.
Nowadays I am busy with a literature survey about several Matlab toolboxes which help in analyzing and simulation of systems in which wireless networks are involved. Wireless networks are namely increasingly more being used for control systems. To give an example where one could have used a wireless network inside a control system is my double inverted pendulum, namely at the encoder where the two pendulums meet. In that case the encoder at the connection of the two pendulums is not wired anymore. Wireless networks however bring all kind of nasty behavior with them which influences the stability of the system. Furthermore, wireless networks combined with control systems are still hard to analyze mathematically. Therefore there are still a lot of open questions to be answered around this subject.