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Northwestern University

Everything is the Same: Modeling Engineered Systems

Northwestern University via Coursera


Students in this class will learn modeling and analysis techniques applicable to electrical, mechanical, and chemical systems.  This “systems” view, that focuses on what is common to these different physical systems, has been responsible for much of the progress in the last several decades in aeronautics, robotics, and other engineering disciplines where there are many different technologies working together.  

Starting with algebraic descriptions of individual components (such as resistors), the class develops tools for modeling engineered systems.  Differential equations are key ingredients, so we will spend significant time learning how to derive differential equations from component descriptions.  One of the key ideas in this class is that electrical, mechanical, and chemical systems may seem very different from each other but often have very similar behavior, allowing us to draw powerful analogies between them.  Case studies from several areas of engineering will be used to illustrate the modeling techniques, including examples from robotics, power networks, exoskeletons, biomechanics, system identification, and active sensing.  Students will be encouraged to do hands-on experiments that demonstrate the techniques. 


1. What does it mean to model a physical system?
2. Newton's laws
3. Mechanical components connected together
4. Chemical diffusion
5. Laws governing electrical behavior
6. Circuits and electrical components connected together
7. Analogies between physical systems
8. Diffusion is everywhere

Taught by

Todd D. Murphey


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  • Andrés Suárez García

    Andrés Suárez García completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

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