Testimonial Master’s program TU/e Systems & Control

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.

TUe - Testimonial
Testimonial on the TU/e website.

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.

Smuggling Game (Dutch: Smokkelspel)

The Smuggling Game is another running game which can be played inside the forest. The game takes place inside the forest. The group is divided into two teams. One team is called the smugglers and the other the police or customs. The goal of the smugglers is to smuggle goods (cards) from one part of the forest to another part. In both parts of the forest is a game leader, one who hands out and one who collects cards. The goal of the police is to make sure that the smugglers fail at their goal. The smuggler has to hand over his card to the police when he is tapped by them. The police then hands out the collected card to a third game leader who is located in the middle of the two other game leaders. The game leader who hands out cards to the smugglers has a fixed number of cards. Shortly after the game leader is out of cards the smugglers become the police and vica versa. Of course this team switching can also be time dependent.

To actually play the Smuggling Game there is one required accessories and one optional.

  • required: game cards (see below)
  • optional: sash, for identification of both teams

A few alterations can be made to the game to make it more difficult or exiting.

  1. If the police taps a smuggler, they do rock-paper-scissors or another simple game, to determine if the police wins the card from the smuggler. If the police loses he has, for instance, to stand still for at least 5 seconds.
  2. Instead of one location where the smugglers can bring their cards towards to, there are multiple locations.
  3. First the smugglers bring their cards to the first location. They can then decide to double the value of the card by bringing it to a second, more difficult to reach, location. Then they can bring to a third, et cetera.

Game cards

Click on the figure to go to the Google drawing. You can download a A4 paper sheets here with the cards in the correct ratio, to be printed on colored paper. The Dutch version can be found here.

Smuggling Game - Cards

High quality interesting freely publicly available e-books

During my studies at the Eindhoven University of Technology some professors have been referring to freely available e-books. Some of these are mentioned here, others I just did find useful for other reasons. I tend to expand this list whenever I find an freely publicly e-book which I think is worth sharing.

Please contact me if one of the links is broken.

A Mathematical Introduction to Robotic Manipulation

By Richard Murray, Zexiang Li and Shankar Sastry

A Mathematical Introduction to Robotic Manipulation presents a mathematical formulation of the kinematics, dynamics, and control of robot manipulators. It uses an elegant set of mathematical tools that emphasizes the geometry of robot motion and allows a large class of robotic manipulation problems to be analyzed within a unified framework. The foundation of the book is a derivation of robot kinematics using the product of the exponentials formula. The authors explore the kinematics of open-chain manipulators and multifingered robot hands, present an analysis of the dynamics and control of robot systems, discuss the specification and control of internal forces and internal motions, and address the implications of the nonholonomic nature of rolling contact are addressed, as well. The wealth of information, numerous examples, and exercises make A Mathematical Introduction to Robotic Manipulation valuable as both a reference for robotics researchers and a text for students in advanced robotics courses.


Mathematical Control Theory

By Eduardo Sontag

Mathematics is playing an ever more important role in the physical and biological sciences, provoking a blurring of boundaries between scientific disciplines and a resurgence of interest in the modern as well as the classical techniques of applied mathematics. This renewal of interest, both in research and teaching, has led to the establishment of the series Texts in Applied Mathematics (TAM). The development of new courses is a natural consequence of a high level of excitement on the research frontier as newer techniques, such as numerical and symbolic computer systems, dynamical systems, and chaos, mix with and rein force the traditional methods of applied mathematics. Thus, the purpose of this textbook series is to meet the current and future needs of these advances and to encourage the teaching of new courses. TAM will publish textbooks suitable for use in advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate courses, and will complement the Applied Mathematics Sciences (AMS) series, which will focus on advanced textbooks and research-level monographs. v Preface to the Second Edition The most significant differences between this edition and the first are as follows: Additional chapters and sections have been written, dealing with: nonlinear controllability via Lie-algebraic methods, variational and numerical approaches to nonlinear control, including a brief introduction to the Calculus of Variations and the Minimum Principle, – time-optimal control of linear systems, feedback linearization (single-input case), nonlinear optimal feedback, controllability of recurrent nets, and controllability of linear systems with bounded controls.


Synchronization and Linearity : An Algebra for Discrete Event Systems

By François Baccelli, Guy Cohen, Geert Jan Olsder and Jean-Pierre Quadrat

This book proposes a unified mathematical treatment of a class of ‘linear’ discrete event systems, which contains important subclasses of Petri nets and queuing networks with synchronization constraints. The linearity has to be understood with respect to nonstandard algebraic structures, e.g. the ‘max-plus algebra’. A calculus is developed based on such structures, which is followed by tools for computing the time behaviour to such systems. This algebraic vision lays the foundation of a bona fide ‘discrete event system theory’, which is shown to parallel the classical linear system theory in several ways. This class of synchronized systems finds its main current industrial applications in the modeling, optimization and control of communications networks, computer architectures, manufacturing and transportation systems. The book should hence appeal to students and researchers in probability-statistics, applied mathematics, (industrial and electrical) engineering, operations research, as well as computer and management scientists.


Convex Optimization

By  Stephen Boyd and Lieven Vandenberghe

Convex optimization problems arise frequently in many different fields. This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the subject, and shows in detail how such problems can be solved numerically with great efficiency. The focus of the book is on recognizing convex optimization problems and then finding the most appropriate technique for solving them. It contains many worked examples and homework exercises and will appeal to students, researchers and practitioners in fields such as engineering, computer science, mathematics, statistics, finance, and economics.


Linear Matrix Inequalities in System and Control Theory

By Stephen Boyd, Laurent El Ghaoui, Eric Feron, and Venkataraman Balakrishnan

In this book the authors reduce a wide variety of problems arising in system and control theory to a handful of convex and quasiconvex optimization problems that involve linear matrix inequalities. These optimization problems can be solved using recently developed numerical algorithms that not only are polynomial-time but also work very well in practice; the reduction therefore can be considered a solution to the original problems. This book opens up an important new research area in which convex optimization is combined with system and control theory, resulting in the solution of a large number of previously unsolved problems.


A Brief Introduction to Neural Networks

By David Kriesel

Neural networks are a bio-inspired mechanism of data processing, that enables computers to learn technically similar to a brain and even generalize once solutions to enough problem instances are tought. The manuscript “A Brief Introduction to Neural Networks” is divided into several parts, that are again split to chapters. Part I: From Biology to Formalization — Motivation, Philosophy, History and Realization of Neural Models. Part II: Supervised learning Network Paradigms. Part III: Unsupervised learning Network Paradigms. Part IV: Excursi, Appendices and Registers.


The Feynman Lectures on Physics

By Richard Phillips Feynman, Robert Benjamin Leighton and Matthew Sands

This revised edition of Feynman’s legendary lectures includes extensive corrections Feynman and his colleagues received and Caltech approved, making this the definitive edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. For all readers interested in physics.


Motion Mountain the adventure of physics

By Christoph Schiller

Motion Mountain is an entertaining and free e-book in six pdf files introducing physics – the science of motion. Explore the motion of wheels, birds, lightning, planets, light and empty space itself! Be fascinated by the beauty of nature and by the concepts of modern physics, from the principle of cosmic laziness – least action – to gauge symmetry!


Stratego Alive (Dutch: Levend Stratego)

One week in the Summer I work voluntary as a camp leader at a summer camp for children. Each year there are at least three summer camps for different ages. The camp accommodation is located in the Veluwe which is a forest-rich ridge of hills in the province of Gelderland in the Netherlands. Hence a lot of the activities take place inside the forest. Every camp leader organizes some games/events for the children. This year I organized four events.

The last two games I want to share with you. In this blogpost I explain the details of Stratego Alive. In another blog I will give the details about the Smuggling game.

Stratego Alive

Stratego Alive is a variation on the strategy board game Stratego. It is a running game and is to be played in the forest. The group is divided in two or more teams. All teams have their own playing field, i.e. part of the forest, in which they hide their flag, note that the flag must still be, partially, visible . The flag can be for instance a colored towel or an old ripped bed sheet with some colored paint on it. The goal of the game is to capture the flag of the opposing teams.

Every team has at least one game leader. The game leader sits on a fixed location somewhere in the part of the forest of that particular team. The game leader hands out every player a card. On the card the rank is shown and depending on the card also some extra info. The table below shows the ranks. In general it holds that the card with the highest rank wins. If a player wins the player who lost gives his card to the winning player. Both players must then return to their respective game leader, the winning player is to hand in the card of the losing player. The losing player is to obtain a new card.

Ratio Name Rank Info
1 Marshal 10 Loses against the Spy if Spy taps first.
4 General 9
5 Colonel 8
6 Major 7
7 Captain 6
8 Lieutenant 5
9 Sergeant 4
6 Miner 3 Wins against Bomb
10 Scout 2
2 Spy 1 Wins against the Marshal if Spy taps first.
6 Bomb 0 Loses against the Miner. Cannot tap anyone

The Marshal is the highest rank and wins from all other cards, except if it is tapped by the Spy. The Spy is the only character which wins from the Marshal if he taps first. It is to be noted that sometimes children fight over who tapped first regarding the Marshal and Spy, therefore the rule can also be changed such that the Marshal always losses against the Spy regardless of who taps first. The Bomb is somewhat similar to the Marshal it also wins from almost every card accept that the Bomb cannot tap other players by himself and loses against the Miner.

If the rank is equal there are two rules which one can enforce, (i) either the two players exchange cards and return to their game leader or (ii) the two players ignore each other and continue playing.

This is Stratego Alive. This game can easily be themed when the game is to be played into a certain setting, for instance, pirates. You simply change the name of the Marshal to Captain Hook, General to Jack Sparrow, et cetera.

To actually play Stratego Alive there are two required accessories and one optional.

  • required: game cards for every team (see below)
  • required: flag for every team
  • optional: sash, for identification of each team

Game cards

Click on the figure to go to the Google drawing. You can download a A4 paper sheets here with the cards in the correct ratio, to be printed on colored paper. The Dutch version can be found here. Credits regarding the graphics of the cards go to Sjoerd.

Stratego Alive - Cards