Control System Fundamentals By Video

If you’ve had the classic engineering education, you probably have a hazy recollection of someone talking about control theory. If you haven’t, you’ve probably at least heard of PID controllers and open loop vs closed loop control. If you don’t know about control theory or even if you just want a refresher, [Brian Douglas] has an excellent set of nearly 50 video lectures that will give you a great introduction to the topic. You can watch the first lecture, below.

You might think that control systems are only useful in electronics when you are trying to control a process like a chemical plant or a temperature. However, control theory shows up in a surprising number of places from filters to oscillators, to the automatic gain control in a receiver. You’ll find the background behind many familiar results inside control theory. Sort of like when you take calculus and you discover how they came up with all the formulas you memorized in geometry.

The presentation style of these videos is good. The first sets of topics are necessarily abstract, but later videos in the series show a robotic vehicle using tracks and an Arduino, a MEMS gyro, and how to land on a planet. If you don’t think control systems are everywhere, consider an example we use when talking to school kids: a toilet. A very simple and very common closed loop control system. Even [Bill Gates] and Caltech agree. Although, honestly, we don’t know what constitutes an “aspirational toileting experience.”

We’ve done our own series on this topic, but not using video. We’ve covered PID-controlled projects ranging from drones to soldering irons.

17 thoughts on “Control System Fundamentals By Video

  1. Another great thing is that the author of the videos also made a book about control theory.

    The book is very well written, and it’s a huge time saver (compared with the videos) when real learning is required. The book can be purchased, or can be obtained for free if you email the author and kindly ask him to send you his ebook.

    1. Yeah right… Here’s the link to the “book” on the horrible Patreon site:

      The book link came from the Author’s Patreon home page:

      Using the latest Firefox browser on a Windows machine with all scripting enabled I couldn’t get the book page to load no matter what I tried. Beware there are layers and layers of scripting that must be enabled. Even then, nothing but an animated graphic of a rocket orbiting a moon-like graphic and at one point a fox (animal) in a space helmet appears. No other content :-(

    2. Hey, I’m the author of the videos and the book (still in progress)! I didn’t realize I made it to Hackaday until I got a few messages about it from other people. Thanks for reminding folks that they can get the book for free – and share with anyone they want – Patreon is not required. I’ll make it easy for people who read this and would like a copy. Just email me at and ask for it. Cheers everyone!

  2. Awesome link! Yeah, I just two days ago pulled out the PID wondering if I still have the 40A relay… oops… mind control process issue. OK, so the relay is only a 25A relay and is definitely in the range of 24 – 380 VAC and 3 – 32 VDC. Budget algorithm process I/Q issues… real versus imaginary… or is it I wanted something ahead of my budget (out of phase) and afforded the real (in phase as I maybe can not afford) and get some sort of quadrature phase that I have… hhhmmm… off topic again.

    Let’s say for example control systems is also used in programming. There are inputs, processes, and outputs. Another form of an IPO since we all don’t get that other form opportunity so much now days post dot com bubble.

    I like how the link for the HaD series also notes Input, Control System and Output. Processes are control systems and with any system there is in fact the opportunity for controls… that is if you look and make the observations. Then you find critical control points and money making (or job security) opportunities to make improvements in efficiency.

    I’ll have to study more as I am enjoying learning about energy more and not only the mass and financial resources and I suppose delusional other professional (law, psychology and medicine) metaphysical sciences of systems.

    Thanks for the video series link and article, I look forward to finding the time to watch.

    1. I can note the above third paragraph last sentence noted as improvements in “efficiency”; as improvements in “effectiveness”, since to some efficiency can be considered inefficient since based on perception. Really can note effective more critically thinking from a bigger systems perspective.

  3. Scary after thinking about the “Understanding your system” disciplines that make too many assumptions and are emotionally compelled to do things, that is versus more wisely and logically. Some can be and are really dangerous to scientists and engineers with their assumed theories of brute force deductions or is that inductive reasoning? I suppose most didn’t read into Sherlock Holmes more and find his addictions… not only the needle thing. Most systems are not always .”elementary” and “deduced.” Sometimes there is the need for “inductive” reasoning with predictive modeling and quantitative or even identification of variables in the system, at the boundaries and in the environment and qualitative analysis of those variables too. Fun with terminology also and interpolation and extrapolation. :-|)

    1. What language do you think in? Without any rudeness implicit, I can tell by your writing that you think quite differently than me.
      I recently read Feynman’s summary of the problems at NASA which lead up to the Challenger disaster, it was mentioned in a post here on HaD. It sounds somewhat similar to your critique of properly or entirely understanding a system.

      1. Walt Disney brain storming that can use a reminder to edit my work more often than just typing down what is on my mind.
        Maybe Hierarchical Cluster Analysis and Partial Least Squares orders of operations to condense topics to the fewest number of variables to describe complex advanced domesticated thoughts, acts and events… just kidding… or maybe I do subconsciously if my memories and associations are trained accurate and aware with valid thoughts and I am not emotionally magnified.

        English language though logic using logical and conditional operators and mathematics in preferably quantitative ways and means if I understand the variables of the system entirely, i.e. internal system, boundaries and environment considering all the forces we understand, all the range of masses down to elementary particles. I still have quite a few gaps though with terminology since physics is confusing with terms and even the physics of different sciences throughout time ranges in history.

        Yes, NASA has issues let me remind you. Murderers and other criminals help form that agency after the National Security Act of 1947. They have been caught before in recent times. Prior to that 1947 and subsequent revisions moment(s) in time… I don’t believe they were so bad (malicious intent compounding and concealing with their NRO client agencies and contractors) of an organization. Nor was there such a political PSYOPS Mind War issue going on with non John 14:6, i.e. anti pro life and pro truth foreigners taking over and murdering our real Christian kind, caring and honest even if they weren’t the smartest. Maybe let’s say targeting more gullible due to being vulnerable to not knowing how dangerous some of the sub humans that act more like Pan troglodyte behave stealthily framing, pinning and mugging to create scapegoats so to blindside us and write us off the books and mass murder like Rome has always wanted to do with their most poisonous “ha ha he… he… woops…” in history ever recorded Holy Roman Empire and slave party mobs/mafias including their descent and cohorts that are not valid.

        Do you have the reference to the NASA Challenger post? I am interested in reading. I had some documents related to Thiocol that were stolen when my mobile office was stolen in one of my trucks that was stolen out in Utah.

          1. Occasionally, I have found some more than rude responders online and I’m not thinking they’re the “first responder” types. :-|) Comments are for thoughts however and part of HaD mission. Thank you for the link. I’ll read into.

            Most do not realize the corrupted nature of some agencies… especially foreign to the us U.S. Americans. Say for instance the BND might try to copy by getting near GCHQ who might try to copy by getting near the NSA. Well, prior to those agencies there were other corporations that were either independent or government also. I see wikipeda has updated Jack Parson’s site with more details that I was aware of, though wasn’t sure if substantiated, i.e. I’ve heard over the years JPL originally stood for Jack Parson’s Laboratories (JPL) and he had cult relationships that to me are brain damaging delusional.

            Maybe there is more to Parson’s behaviors, interests and concerns prior to the cult (strange existentialist basically with different ceremonies) experience that I am not aware of… however, my concern is still to this day in regards to those that work on cutting edge research for the time period of the life cycle of the technology… foreigners brain washing, cult programming and other their degenerate forms of influence can lead to subvervise activities that can turn deadly.

            To me, so much now days where the U.S. is having issues with the U.S standard ways and means. I believe due to a lack of Control Systems when making Change Control Processes in the Legislature and really invalid in nature and nurturing intent in the Judiciary branches of government and a few Executive branch departments. The U.S. let in to many international organized criminal mafias that were really desperately trying to look “official” with only opinions that are primate predatory, though compelling if not poisonous to compel, I believe is the root cause.

          2. Great link Shannon. What concerns me even more from my experience is the “Certificate of Analysis” (CofA) testing as the specification being tested for each batch or lot received and as valid versus actually testing. I gave my NIR team positions to make sure there was at least a confirmation testing group dedicated to verifying the C of A’s when I much rather preferred more testing and process analytical technologies (PAT’s) controls for real time testing more within a batch/lot manufacturing processes. The new Director’s or higher didn’t want the PAT’s. They seemed to want to defraud the customers and even shareholders and maybe stakeholders.

            I used to own and read “What Do You Care What Other People Think?“ I can not stand the later “to hell with it attitude.” That was a trait I learned when I was younger I didn’t want to emulate. I do a more… step back really slowly and take a look at later.

            What I found is that Human Resources can become poisonous and deadly even. Like when I applied at the NSA, HR was not as smart as I expected. More-so I was deterred from ever applying again due to their incompetence… especially after dealing with back stabbing cult HR at the Perigo Company that literally is connected to Satanists. The U.S. culture has become opioid and cocaine brain damaged on meth culture of lies, deceit, delusional grandiose and tangential even to literal interpretation of word definitions in some parts.

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