School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, SUNY at Buffalo

MAE 405/505: Mechatronics

Spring 2002

[ University at Buffalo] - [ College of Engineering ] - [ MAE Department ]

Professor Venkat N. Krovi

Course Info

Course Organization


  Course Description



  SOAR Description


  Reporting Requirements






Schedule – including class notes 

Submitted Lab Reports

Team Formation

  Suppliers/ Manufacturers












(716) 645-2593, x2236


1012 Furnas Hall, North Campus

Office Hours:





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       Lab and Project Descriptions

       Submitted Reports

       Media Coverage




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Mechatronics has been defined as the synergistic integration of precision mechanical engineering, electronic control, and systems thinking in the design of products and processes. Competitiveness requires devices or processes that are increasingly reliable, versatile, accurate, feature-rich, and at the same time inexpensive. These objectives can be achieved by introducing electronic controls and computer technology as integrated parts of machines and their components.


Mechatronic design results both in improvements of existing products (e.g. microprocessor controlled coffee machines) as well as new products and systems, unachievable by any of its elements alone (e.g. camcorders). In addition, advanced controls can sometimes compensate for mechanical deficiencies, and/or permit the use of less accurate and cheaper components. Examples of mechatronic systems include robotic manipulators, aircraft simulators, electronic traction control systems, adaptive suspensions, landing gears, air-conditioners under fuzzy logic control, automated diagnostic systems, MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems), many consumer products from bread baking machines to VCRs, electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, and motion control systems. These example systems all depend on integration of mechanical systems, controls, and computers in order to meet demanding specifications, introduce ‘intelligence’ in mechanical hardware, add versatility and maintainability, and reduce cost.


A key prerequisite in building successful mechatronic systems is the fundamental understanding of the three basic elements (mechanics, controls, and computers), and the synergistic application of these in designing innovative products and processes. In this sense, mechatronics is to be contrasted with mechanical design (where the ‘open-loop’ plant is designed without consideration of its control), control (where feedback loops are closed based on ‘available’ models of the plant), and computers (where controls are implemented in software and hardware, as a mere result of the two previous elements). Although all three building blocks are very important, mechatronics focuses explicitly on their interaction, integration, and synergy that can lead to improved and cost-effective systems.


The need for training of engineers versed in mechatronics and be capable of facing these new challenges is being recognized worldwide. This course responds to industry’s increasing demand for engineers who are able to work across the boundaries of narrow disciplines to identify and use the proper combination of technologies for optimum solutions to today’s increasingly challenging engineering problems. Understanding the synergy between disciplines makes the students better communicators and able to work in and lead design teams which may consist of specialist engineers as well as generalists.

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Course Description


MAE405/505 Mechatronic Design will emphasize the theory and practice of hardware and software interfacing of microprocessors with analog and digital sensor/actuators. The objective is to build a working familiarity with microprocessor and electronic technologies needed in the design and control of mechatronic systems. This course will cover the following broad topics:

         Analog and Digital Signals conversion.

         Digital Logic, Circuits and Implementation.

         CPU Architectures.

         Structured-language and assembly level programming.

         Digital (parallel/serial) and analog input/output (I/O).

         Interfacing to external devices, sensors, and actuators and

         Real time Operating System Issues and Operator Interfaces.

The goal of this course is to enable the students to:

         gain a more complete understanding of the theory and use of basic electronic devices and electrical circuits.

         learn the basics of theory, operation, design and application of sensor and actuators.

         learn the basics of architecture, programming and application of microcontrollers and microprocessors.

         learn the theoretical and practical aspects of hardware and software interfacing of microprocessors with external devices (circuits/actuators/sensors/other microprocessors) to realize mechatronic systems.

         explore various alternative realizations of common tasks using a combination of analog/digital hardware and software.

         gain experience and proficiency in designing and assembling simple mechatronic sub-systems and systems.

See tentative schedule for a detailed list of topics covered.

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 At an academic level, the prerequisites for the course include familiarity with programming in at least one structured language (BASIC, PASCAL, C or JAVA) and familiarity with the use of common electrical circuits (e.g. RC circuits) and common electronic components (e.g. transistors).


At a personal level, the students are also expected to possess a readiness to learn, an enthusiasm for getting their hands dirty and most of all perseverance. This course has a strong design flavor emphasizing hands-on practical implementations and open-ended/unstructured problems. Every effort will be made by the instructors to structure the course to eliminate ambiguities/uncertainties in the statement of the problem/requirements. However, it is important for the students to realize that in many real-world problems, there is no single "correct" answer. Additionally, hardware implementation often requires a significant commitment of time and energy. Hardware projects are notorious for being the most easily susceptible to "bugs" and "defects".


One of the course objectives is to help the students develop a range of solutions to a problem and exercise their "engineering judgment" in order to select the "most suitable" solution. The other course objective is to build up the confidence and core competency of the students in both theory and practice of microprocessor interfacing. These are skills that will be invaluable to every student not only in later courses like "Design Project" but also in real-life after graduation. Students who are unfamiliar or unsure about these requirements should discuss these issues with the instructor prior to registering for the class.

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Auslander and Kempf, 1996, Mechatronics: Mechatronic System Interfacing, Prentice Hall, NJ.

Alciatore, D.G. and Histand, M.B., 1999, Introduction to Mechatronics and Measurement Systems, McGraw-Hill, NY
see corrections and mark them in your copy of the book)

Reference Books on Specific Topics:

Mini-robot construction:

 This book is highly recommended for its encyclopedic treatment of the subject of mobile robots.


The only source for electrical and electronic circuitry that you will probably ever need.

Mechatronic Interfacing:

Microchip PIC:

         Predko M., 1998, "Programming and customizing the PIC Microcontroller", Mc-Graw Hill, NY

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The class consists of lectures on major topics in electronics, instrumentation, actuation and sensing complemented by a lab section in which small teams of students will configure, design, and implement mechatronic subsystems. Lecture coverage includes microprocessor architectures, programming, digital and analog circuits, sensors, actuators, communication protocols, real-time and operator interface issues. Lectures will emphasize operational principles, integrated design issues, and brainstorming associated with the spectrum of mechanism, electronics, and control components. These lectures are supplemented by labs aimed at building basic professional competence in the use of the material discussed in the lectures by promoting hands-on practical implementation. The lab section will consist of four more-or-less preplanned exercises in the first 10 weeks of the course leading up to a more open-ended final project. A structured framework is provided to aid in success of the team during the first portion of the course with a more open-ended final project building upon the theoretical and practical aspects from the early portion of the course.

A short summary of the expectations from the teams, lab exercises and final project requirements is provided below:


The intent of this course is also to provide the student with a cooperative working experience within a team. Students obtain practical experience with the design process, and learn specific technical topics covered in lecture and used in the project. During the first week of class, each student will be asked to complete a questionnaire about their technical background based on which the class will be divided into teams of three students. Tangible intermediate deliverables for subsystems will be due approximately every two/three weeks based on material learned in lecture as well as implemented in the hands-on lab section.

Lab Exercises

In the first part of the course there are four lab exercises emphasizing different aspects of microprocessor interfacing which will be performed by all the two-person teams. These are intended to foster basic competencies among the students in the use of small microcontrollers like Basic Stamps, PIC Microcontrollers and Handy Boards to perform tasks such as:

o        Interface hardware devices like keypads/LCDs

o        Measure analog inputs (using A/D) and digital inputs (using counters/decoders)

o        Control the position and velocity of a D.C motor.

o        Implement an Infrared Serial Link

Final Project

The final class project will be the implementation of a small mobile-robot with an extensive sensor suite. This project will be divided up into a set of sub-projects of a size that can be accomplished by the two-person teams as their final projects. Each team will be required to implement one of these sub-projects using a PIC 16C71 microprocessor. These final projects are more open-ended in nature and will require the students to synthesize the knowledge gained from the earlier part of the semester. Special emphasis will also be placed on modularity and the role of integration in building the mobile robot.

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Reporting Requirements

Each student is required to send a weekly brief (5-10 sentence) status report of their implementation efforts by email to the instructors while cc'ing their teammates. This e-mail report will focus on the individual and team's progress with respect to (w.r.t) the lab exercises (in the first half of the semester) and w.r.t the final project (in the latter half of the semester). On weeks when the report of a lab exercise is due, submission of the soft copy (Word document) will be adequate.

A single report per group will be due roughly two weeks after the lab exercise has been assigned. The lab exercises will be announced in class during the lab section as well as on the web along with an exact submission due date and time. Detailed instructions regarding the format of the reports to be submitted are posted here. An example Report for Lab 1 (written by one of last year’s groups with the “Documented Source Code” sections deleted) can be found here – SampleReport.pdf

A single comprehensive final project report per team will be due at the end of the semester. The exact due date for the submission will be announced at least a month in advance, in class and on the Web, after finalization of individual teams and their projects. Detailed instructions regarding the format of the reports to be submitted are posted here.  


Each lab exercise report and final project report should be submitted in two forms: a) as a printed paper report and b) as a software copy. The software copy of the document should also be e-mailed as an attachment directly to Professor Krovi ( in order to facilitate posting on the Web site. (Microsoft Word is the preferred word-processing software -- alternative arrangements may be made upon request).

Policy on Late Submissions

No credit will be given for late assignments (demonstrations or reports). Under special circumstances, exceptions may be made, but only if prior arrangements at least 3 days in advance of the due date are made with the instructor. Late weekly emails will be given no credit.

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There will be no mid-term exam and one final examination. Each two-student team will be required to submit a detailed report for each of the five lab exercises in addition to a demonstration of completion of the exercise. For the final project, an oral presentation will also be required in addition to the submitting a comprehensive project report. Note that in addition to the evaluation by instructors, a certain portion of the grade will depend on "peer evaluation" of the oral presentation and demonstrations by members of other teams. The tentative grading policy is as follows:

Lab Exercises (Submissions + Demonstrations)


Final Project (Oral + Report + Demonstration)


Final Examination


Details of the actual grading of each Lab Exercise Report, the Final Project Report and the Oral Presentation will be provided when each task is announced. See the section on Lab Exercises for more details. Detailed instructions for formatting the reports to be submitted are posted here.

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