Plenary Lectures



Thursday August 29th
Supporting the mathematical education of engineering undergraduates in the UK
Tony Croft, University of Loughborough


Biography:

Tony Croft has taught mathematics in higher education for nearly thirty years. During that time he has co-authored numerous undergraduate engineering mathematics textbooks that are used widely throughout the UK and beyond. He has contributed to engineering mathematics curriculum development projects and has played a lead role within the UK and Europe in developing mechanisms to support student learning and proficiency in the mathematical skills required for engineering. He is perhaps now best known for his working in championing the support of students who find the transition from school mathematics to university-level mathematics particularly challenging. In recognition of his work, he was awarded a Loughborough University Personal Chair in Mathematics Education in 2007, a National Teaching Fellowship in 2008, and in 2011 he accepted the Times Higher Education Award for Outstanding Support for Students 2011 on behalf of Loughborough University.

Abstract:

In this talk, Professor Croft will chart the development of mathematics support for engineering students from the mid-nineties when serious problems began to be reported in the UK. He will describe some of the reasons for these problems and then outline how he and many colleagues have tried to overcome them. He will go on to describe some recent projects that he is associated with which take mathematics support beyond the transition to higher education in order that mathematics support is seen to address not only a remedial agenda but also one of quality enhancement for the most mathematically able of our students. He hopes that the talk will stimulate colleagues to think about further ways in which the teaching and support of their own students can be enhanced.

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Friday August 30th
Control and Mathematics Curricula
Matthias Kawski, Arizona State University


Biography:

Matthias Kawski has worked in nonlinear control theory for over 25 years. His contributions span from controllability, feedback stabilization, to modeling of semi-conductor manufacturing using a variety of tools that range from differential geometry and hyperbolic conservation laws to combinatorial Hopf algebras. He has taught a very wide range of over 30 different courses, many of which are directly targeted at engineers or which have many engineering students who want to deepen their mathematical background.

Matthias has always been a pioneer of innovative instructional approaches, especially the use of computing technology. After spearheading local efforts to statewide implement innovative calculus curricula in the early 90s, he joined a large effort to redesign the undergraduate engineering curriculum as part of the NSF supported Engineering Foundation Coalition. Key themes were to get engineering into the freshmen curriculum, working in teams, broadening the student base, and curriculum integration all the way to team finals that integrated engineering, with physics, mathematics and English. More recently, being responsible for the mathematics undergraduate programs at Arizona State University, he keeps a close eye on courses in linear algebra and differential equations where the expectations of engineers continue to very evolve rapidly. Matthias' special interest still is getting more control into the mathematics curriculum, as the inverse questions asked in in control are intellectually so much more stimulating than traditional descriptive tasks, and they are much better suited to guide modern courses where computing tools are routinely available. Thanks to EECI for sponsoring this plenary speaker.

Abstract:

Systems and control theory is inherently an engineering discipline. But it has a long history of employing ever more sophisticated mathematical tools, and of giving rise to new mathematics. Control education must continuously keep asking: How much mathematics do the control engineers of the next generation need, at what time, and at what level? When are black-box tools appropriate, and when are proofs required to provide necessary deeper understanding of why? This presentation focuses on complementary questions of how much control should there be in mathematics curricula, and why. Historically, optimal control theory gave new life to the withering discipline of the calculus of variations. A more recent example is progress in control such as in linear matrix inequalities pushing scientific computing and numerical analysis. We argue that control can also much improve curricula in differential equations /dynamical systems and various other mathematics courses. Two practical drivers are the need to address the introduction and expansion of computing software in mathematics courses at all levels, and the need to provide more efficiency by connecting theoretical work with the applications in the client disciplines. With graphing calculators, numerical packages such as MATLAB, and computer algebra systems, traditional forward questions often have become trivial. They need to be replaced by inverse questions which demand more problem solving, are better suited for assessing understanding, and are more engaging: Where the stereotypical scientist asks: where will it go, what will happen, the control engineer asks: what do I have to do so that this happens? We provide various suggestions to improve traditional curricula by changing the focus from descriptive and predictive questions to including control systems perspectives all the way to the feedback design. Both the control engineering students and the general audience in these courses will benefit from such changes.

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Wednesday August 28th
Teaching Feedback to Non-Traditional Audiences
Richard Murray, Caltech


Biography:

Richard Murray is a recent winner of the Harold Chestnut award for control textbooks. His research is in the application of feedback and control to mechanical, information, and biological systems. Current projects include integration of control, communications, and computer science in multi-agent systems, information dynamics in networked feedback systems, analysis of insect flight control systems, and biological circuit design. Professor Murray has recently developed a new course at Caltech that is aimed at teaching the principles and tools of control to a broader audience of scientists and engineers, with particular emphasis on applications in biology and computer science.

Many of the future opportunities for control are in non-traditional domains such as biology, computer science, social science, physics and economics, and the controls community must contribute to the educational programs required to teach the next generation of practitioners and researchers in these areas. A key element of this endeavor is developing new books and courses that emphasize feedback concepts and the requisite mathematics, without requiring that students come from a traditional engineering background. This talk will describe the course that Murray helped develop at Caltech and the companion textbook that was written with Karl Åström.

Abstract:

Many of the future opportunities for control are in non-traditional domains such as biology, computer science, social science, physics and economics, and the controls community must contribute to the educational programs required to teach the next generation of practitioners and researchers in these areas. A key element of this endeavor is developing new books and courses that emphasize feedback concepts and the requisite mathematics, without requiring that students come from a traditional engineering background. This talk will describe a set of courses that Murray helped develop at Caltech and a textbook that was written with Karl Åström intended to help fill a gap in the existing landscape of controls textbooks.

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Thursday August 29th
How to write a successful Control textbook (I Did It My Way)
Jan Maciejowksi, University of Cambridge


Biography:

Apart from his many research contributions, Jan Maciejowksi is particularly well known for his excellent textbooks (on multivariable feedback design and predictive control) and thus contribution to control education, for which he is a winner of the Harold Chestnut award for control textbooks. www.eng.cam.ac.uk/~jmm1

Abstract:

How can one write a successful textbook? Despite writing two successful Control textbooks, I don’t claim to know what the recipe is. In this talk I will describe how and why I did it, without claiming that this was the best way to do it, or that my way will work for any other budding authors. Issues that I will address will include: Motivation for writing a book; Empathy with the reader; How much time does it take? Relating the maths to the ‘real world’; The problem of prerequisites; Is there anything special about Control? I will mention some of my favourite Control books, and consider whether there are still any gaps in the market.

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