ME 333 Introduction to Mechatronics (Archive Winter 2020)

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Winter Quarter 2020

First day of class is Tuesday January 7.

  • Section 20: Prof. Nick Marchuk (, T Th, 11:00-12:20, Tech LR4
  • Section 21: Prof. Nick Marchuk (, T Th, 12:30-1:50, Tech LR4
  • TAs:
    • Huan Weng
    • German Espinosa
  • Final demo (in lieu of final exam): Monday Mar 16 3-5 PM (12:30-1:50 section) and Wednesday Mar 18 9-11 AM (11-12:20 section)
  • Office Hours in Ford B100:
    • TuWThF 4-5pm with Prof. Marchuk in Ford B100, or by appt

Purpose of this Course

The purpose of this course is to provide tools that help you express your creativity. Maybe you want to build a robot, or a piece of kinetic art, or an automatic ball-throwing device to entertain your dog; maybe you've identified a market for a new smart product and you'd like to prototype the device. This course provides fundamentals of mechatronics to give you confidence to take on these projects. You are encouraged to take what you learn in this course and apply it in ME 433 Advanced Mechatronics, DSGN 360 Design Competition, senior design projects, or independent projects.

Approximate Syllabus

This course is for students who want to build microprocessor-controlled electromechanical devices.

To do this, ME 333 focuses on three topics: (1) general C programming; (2) Microchip PIC microcontroller architecture and C programming specific to the PIC (e.g., using the PIC's peripherals, such as analog inputs, digital I/O, counters/timers, comm ports, etc.); and (3) interfacing the PIC to sensors and actuators, some theory of sensor and actuator operation, and interface circuitry and signal processing.

You will do a lot of programming in this course! If you are certain you hate programming, then this is not the course for you. But knowing how to program is very useful for any modern engineer. The language we will use is C, a fairly low-level language that works well for microcontrollers, which is more portable and not nearly as painful and low-level as assembly language. If you don't know C, that's not a problem, most students don't before taking ME 333; but you should plan to learn it, and rather quickly. You will have all the materials you need to start learning C before class starts, and the first assignment on C is due on the first day of class! The reason: even though we start out with C, that's not the main goal of this course. The main goal is to teach you about microcontrollers and mechatronics. Plus some students already have C background.

You will bring your laptop to each class. As the quarter progresses, we will be handing out other equipment that you will need to bring to class, such as the NU32 development board that breaks out the PIC32MX795F512H microcontroller.

It is essential you do the assigned reading and watch the videos in advance of class. You will have an assignment and/or lecture comprehension questions (L-comps) due before every class, turned in electronically on Canvas. (This includes the very first day of class!) Once a week we will have a short quiz. Most classes will have a combination of a brief review, Q&A, and working individually or in small groups on problems while the instructors help answer any questions.

Topics we will cover, time depending, include:

  • introduction to C programming
  • introduction to the PIC32 hardware, and programming the PIC32 in C
  • digital I/O
  • counters/timers and interrupts
  • analog input
  • sensor smorgasbord
  • digital signal processing: filters and FFTs
  • analog output and pulse-width modulation
  • brushed permanent magnet DC motors: theory and control
  • stepper motors and RC servo motors
  • communication by SPI, I2C, and RS-232

Checklist to Complete Before the First Day of Class

By the first day of class, you should:

  • Complete the reading and assignment 1, which is due the first day of class! The first assignments are designed to get you up to speed on the C programming language, which we will use throughout the course.
  • Have a laptop with at least 2 USB ports. Any operating system is fine. One port will be used to program and communicate with your PIC microcontroller, and the other will be used for your portable oscilloscope.
  • Be prepared to buy your class kit, consisting of the portable nScope oscilloscope, the NU32 PIC32 development board, textbook, and lots of other goodies. Price $125 if you are starting from scratch; $75 if you already have the nScope.
  • Buy your class kit here. If you already have the oscilloscope and multimeter from this year's ME 233 offering, you should choose "ME 333 (nScope not needed ($75))" for the price of $75. If you do not have the oscilloscope and multimeter, you should choose "ME 333 (including nScope ($125))" for the price of $125. You will not be able to start the course until you have completed the purchase of your kit. If you decide to drop the course, you will be refunded the purchase price upon return of all the equipment in working shape.

Student Contract

By signing up for this course, you agree to complete the checklist above before the course starts. You agree to stay engaged during the class period; even if your computer is open, no facebook or other distractions that will lessen your contribution to the class. You understand that learning from classmates, and helping classmates, is encouraged, up to the stage of conceptualizing solutions. You are not allowed to fully complete a solution in a team. You understand that plagiarism is not tolerated. You will report instances of plagiarism you are aware of. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to:

  • Allowing another student to copy your work.
  • Copying another student's work, in whole or in part.
  • Transforming copied sections of code or solutions to try to disguise their origin.
  • Borrowing code or solutions from others not in the course, e.g., code found on the internet, without attribution. Borrowing code found on the internet is acceptable if the source is clearly indicated in your code comments, and if you understand how the code works.

On our part (faculty and TAs), we commit to do our best to provide you a curriculum and set of experimental materials to get you up to speed on sophisticated mechatronics integration as quickly and efficiently as possible, while giving you a foundation in concepts needed to go further in future projects and courses.


ME 233 Electronics Design or similar (EECS 221, 225, BME 305) is required. You will be expected to analyze circuits with resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, transistors, and op-amps. You can find refresher material and a sample quiz at this page and in Appendix B of the book.



Find a typo in the book or a bug in the code? Report it here


Grades will be approximately 40% quizzes and 60% assignments and L-comps (including the final project). We will have short quizzes once a week at the beginning of class covering material on the previous assignment. (Your lowest quiz score, assignment score, and L-comp score will be dropped.) We will have a final project and demo in lieu of a final exam.

All quizzes, assignments, and L-comps have equal weight, regardless of how many points they are graded out of. If one assignment is graded out of 20 points, and the next out of 40, the formula for calculating your total grade for these two assignments would be 0.5*(score1/20) + 0.5*(score2/40).

Homework Submission

All homework will be submitted using the Canvas Course Management System. Homework should be submitted by 11 AM on the day it is due (i.e., before the first section of the day). Late homework will not be accepted.

Here are a few guidelines/tips associated with homework submissions:

  • Upload files individually. No zip archives!
  • Submit written responses as PDFs.
  • If you upload a PDF of handwritten work, make sure that the text appears clearly and the picture is oriented portrait style.
  • When asked to submit C code for a given programming assignment, we are only concerned with receiving the relevant source files, i.e., all *.c and *.h files.
  • When writing your responses, please follow any instructions on how to write your response. For example, if we ask for a snippet of code, please do not submit your entire C program with header files and a main routine. We typically are only expecting a few lines of code that solve the problem.
  • Be neat and make sure your answers are easy to follow. Messy hard-to-follow assignments make TAs cranky, and you don't want cranky TAs grading your assignment!
  • It helps both us and you if you format your code nicely. Clean looking code is easier for us to grade and easier for you to debug. Text editors with IDEs such as Visual Studio Code, Netbeans and MPLAB X have tools for auto-formatting code. For example, highlighting a region and hitting Alt+Shift+f (Linux and Windows) will format that region according to your local formatting preferences.
  • When you compile your code, pay attention to any compiler warnings. They are there for a reason! You should be able to eventually get your code to produce no warnings. Often if a piece of code is not working, the warnings will give a clue as to why.


This course is (partially) "flipped": you watch video lectures and do readings in advance of class, and during class, you should have plenty of opportunity for questions and interaction with the instructors and TAs as you work on assignments. The purpose of this is to try to maximize the value of the class time. In a typical lecture, 80% of the material is the same every time it is given, and the other 20% is interactive and variable based on student questions. In a flipped class, we hope to flip this percentage, to better tailor the class to student needs. You will have time with the instructors while your brains are actually on and working on the material (not just scribbling notes), the times when you are most likely to have questions. Making the video lectures available should also allow you to spend more or less time on the lecture portion, depending on your prior background. If the material is difficult for you, you can pause or rewind.

Please keep track of any questions you have as you watch the videos! Bring these questions to class; it will make for a livelier classroom.

All videos can be found at this page: NU32 Videos and sample code at the bottom of NU32 Software. We will cover almost all of the Appendix, a Crash Course in C, in the first 1.5 weeks of class, so you can work ahead and do all the readings, watch all the videos, and do all the problems, if you have time over the break. But at a minimum, you must do the winter break assignment.

We will have video lecture comprehension questions (L-comps) due before every class, assignments due every Tuesday, and quizzes every Thursday (on the material covered in the assignment turned in on Thursday). L-comps and assignments are turned in using Canvas before 11 AM the day of the class. The weekly rhythm will be:

  • before Tuesday: turn in assignment on material from previous week and L-comps on videos for the next class
  • Tuesday in class: discuss assignment, brief recap and Q&A on new videos, start on next assignment
  • before Thursday: turn in L-comps on videos for next class
  • Thursday in class: brief quiz on material in assignment turned in on Thursday, recap and discuss videos, continue with assignment

Winter Break

Reading due for first class: pages 515-527 in the freely downloadable sample chapters
Videos: 1-7 of Appendix A NU32 Videos. Answer the lecture comprehension (L-comp) questions in CANVAS.
Assignment: Exercises 1-4, 6-8, 10-11, 16-17 of Appendix A.
Demonstration: Make a video of your HelloWorld.c program and upload in CANVAS.

Class 1 (T 1/7)

Assignment due: L-comp and exercise solutions, and demo video, for the Winter Break assignment by 11am on CANVAS.
In-class demo: Bring your laptop to class to make changes to HelloWorld.c
Assignment discussion
Brief review of videos and readings
Begin next assignment: Appendix A exercises 18-19, 21-22, 27-28, 30-32, 34-35.
Demonstration: Exercise 34.

At home:

Videos and L-comps: 8-16 of a Crash Course in C.
Reading: Through page 562 of a Crash Course in C, and the rest of the Appendix as reference.

Class 2 (Th 1/9)

Before 11 AM: Turn in demo video for Exercise 34.
Assignment discussion
Brief review of videos, readings, and L-comps
Begin next assignment: Exercise 35.
Demonstration: Exercise 35.

At home:

Videos (and L-comps): 17 of a Crash Course in C.
Reading: Rest of a Crash Course in C as reference
Note: Programming Party, Monday Jan 13, 6:00-8:00pm, Ford B100

Class 3 (T 1/14)

Before 11 AM: Turn in assignment, L-comps, and demo video.
Assignment discussion
Brief review of videos, readings, and L-comps
In-class assignment: Quiz review

At home:

Assignment: Study.

Class 4 (Th 1/16)

Quiz: On C.
Discussion Chapter 1

At home:

Videos (no L-comps): Chapter 1 (for your specific OS)
Reading: Chapter 1: Quickstart
Download, install, and compile all software as indicated through the end of Chapter 1.3. See NU32 Software

Class 5 (T 1/21)

Before 11 AM: Watch Chapter 1 videos (no L-comps), install all software from Chapter 1
In class demonstration: Compile helloWorld and talkingPIC for NU32.
Go over PIC32 software

At home:

Videos (and L-comps): 1-4 from Chapter 2.
Reading: Complete Chapter 1 (quickstart) and Chapter 2.
Assignment: Problems 3-16 of Chapter 2. You will need the PIC32MX5xx/6xx/7xx Family Data Sheet (Dec 2013) and the PIC32 Reference Manual (Dec 2013).
Pay for your equipment.

Class 6 (Th 1/23)

Turn in Chapter 2 L-comps
Quiz on Chapter 1

At home:

Videos (and L-comps): All of Chapter 3.
Reading: Complete Chapter 3.
Homework for Chapters 2

Class 7 (T 1/28)

Before 11 AM: Turn in Homework from Chapter 2, L-comps for Chapter 3 videos, read Chapter 3
Review Quiz, Chapter 3, L-comps, and Homework

At home:

Videos (and L-comps): All of Chapter 4.
Reading: Complete Chapter 4.
Homework for next Tuesday: Chapter 3, problems 1-9 (skip 5 for now, that will be a demo later). Chapter 4, problems 1, 2, and 4

Class 8 (Th 1/30)

Before 11 AM: Turn in Chapter 4 L-comp.
Quiz on Chapter 2
Discussion of video and L-comp for Chapter 4
Brief intro to Chapter 4
In class demo: helloworld and talkingPic on the NU32

At home:

Make sure your NU32 works, test simplePIC and talking PIC

Class 9 (T 2/4)

Before 11 AM: Chapter 3 and 4 homework
Example programs with the USER button and LEDs

Class 10 (Th 2/6)

No quiz this week
More example programs

Class 11 (T 2/11)

Brief intro to Chapter 5

At home:

Videos and L-comps on Chapter 5
Reading: Complete Chapter 5. Start Chapter 6.
Homework: Chapter 5 (use no optimization for all exercises): Exercises 3, 4. Chapter 6: Exercises 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 16.

Class 12 (Th 2/13)

Quiz on Chapter 3 and 4 and buttons and LEDs
Discussion of video and L-comp for Chapter 5
Brief intro to Chapter 6

At home:

Videos and L-comps on Chapter 6
Continue homework for Chapter 5 and 6

Class 13 (T 2/18)

Before 11 AM: Turn in Homework from Chapter 5 and 6, L-comps for Chapter 6 videos
Brief intro to Chapter 24, and digital i/o and counter/timers

At home:

Videos and L-comps on Chapters 7 and 8
Reading: Chapters 7 and 8
Assignment: Chapter 7: Exercises 1,2. Chapter 8: Exercise 1. Chapter 9: Exercise 1. Chapter 10: Exercise 1,2.

Class 14 (Th 2/20)

Quiz on Chapter 5 and 6
Brief intro to output compare

At home:

Videos and L-comps on Chapters 9 and 10
Reading: Chapters 9 and 10
Assignment: : Chapter 24.1.2, 24.2.1 and 2, 24.3.1 and 2

Class 15 (T 2/25)

Before 11 AM: L-comps from Chapter 9, 10 and 23, Assignment from Chapter 7-10
Discussion of turned-in homework
Discussion of L-comps
Intro to Chapter 23 and 24

At home:

Homework: Chapter 24.5, 24.7, and 24.8.

Class 16 (Th 2/27)

Quiz on Chapter 7-10
Review Chapter 24
Work on assignment

At home:

Complete Chapter 24

Class 17 (T 3/3)

Before 11 AM: Upload solutions and demo for Ch 24
Discussion of turned-in homework
Discussion of Chapter 25 and 28
Hand out motors

At home:

Assignment: : Read Chapter 28 through 28.4.1. Turn in your responses to 28.4.1 #7, 28.4.7 #7, 28.4.9 #8

Class 18 (Th 3/5)

Quiz on Chapter 23, PID Control.
Discussion of Chapter 26 and 27

At home:

Continue Chapter 28
L-comps for Chapter 27

Class 19 (T 3/10)

Before 11 AM: L-comps
Discussion of Chapter 29

At home:

Complete Chapter 28: 28.4.10 #5, 28.4.12 #5.
Sign up for a time slot to demonstrate your final assignment: google_sheet

Class 20 (Th 3/12)

Final Quiz, on Chapter 25, 26 and 27

Final Demo:

In person, on Monday 3/16, 3-5 PM, or Wednesday 3/18, 9-11 AM.
Electronic submission by Wednesday 3/18, 11 AM.
Turn in your responses to 28.4.1 #7, 28.4.7 #7, 28.4.9 #8, 28.4.10 #5, 28.4.12 #5. Also turn in all of your PIC code and MATLAB code.
Upload a demonstration video of the results of good current tuning, and following a trajectory with good gains and bad gains.


Q: Do I need to know the C language to take this course?

A: No. But if you already know C, there is still plenty else in this course for you. If you already know C, know how to use microcontrollers for real-time control, and have a good understanding how common sensors and actuators work and how to interface to them, this course may not be for you. Consider taking ME 433 Advanced Mechatronics in the spring quarter.

Q: Is there an independent project?

A: There is no large independent project. There will be a two-week project at the end of the course, but there will be no machining. For a more significant project, take ME 433 Advanced Mechatronics, offered in the spring quarter. ME 333 is good preparation for ME 433.

Q: What kind of laptop do I need?

A: You need a laptop with at least 2 USB ports. Any operating system is fine.