ECE171A, Spring 2023 – Linear Control System Theory

(This is the Spring 2023 version of this course. For previous version, click here)



  • Time: Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays 9:00-9:50 am PT

  • Location: CSB 002;


  • CSB 002; Wednesdays 8:00am - 8:50am

Syllabus: ECE171A

Course description

This is an undergraduate-level course in classical control theory. The course covers the modeling of physical systems, analysis and performance of linear systems, and basic feedback controls. We emphasize the basic principle of feedback and its use as a tool for altering or inferring the dynamics of systems under uncertainty.

This course focuses on single-input/single-output linear time-invariant control systems emphasizing frequency-domain methods. We present material that is fundamental and foundational for the study and practice of control systems. Concepts include the s-domain, transient and steady-state behavior, PID control, root locus, Bode, Nyquist plots, compensator design, etc. 

A tentative list of topics that we will cover include

  • Part I: System modeling: ODEs, linear time-invariant systems, first-order and second-order systems, mechanical systems, RLC circuits, etc.

  • Part II: System analysis: Laplace transform, transfer functions, block diagram, Steady-State Error, Transient Response, Stability etc.

  • Part III: Feedback control: PID control, Bode plots, Nyquist plots, stability margin, root locus, Loop analysis/shaping etc.

The students are expected to sign up on Piazza and GradeScope. Discussions and important announcements will happen on Piazza. The homework should be turned in and will be graded on GradeScope.


ECE45: Circuits and Systems or MAE 40: Linear Circuits. Some coding experience with MATLAB, Python, or similar software is expected.

We will provide materials and sample codes for students to catch up with using MATLAB.


You will use Matlab to write simple scripts for homework questions. Please install it as soon as possible.

Course grade

  • 40% homework (8 problem sets)

  • 20% Two midterm exams (in class; closed-book, closed notes, and closed external links)

  • 35% final exam (closed book but you can bring one sheet of notes; page maximum size: Letter; can be double-sided)

  • 5% Class attendance/participation (Two simple in-class quizzes; Unannounced)

These weights are approximate; we reserve the right to do minor changes later.

The due date of each homework and project assignment will be clearly stated. We expect you to turn in all completed problem sets on time. Late submissions and deadline extensions will not be possible because our schedule is very tight.

Collaboration policy: You are encouraged to work with other students on the textbook, lecture notes, homework sets. But please note that the work you turn in should be your own! It is not acceptable to copy a solution that someone else has written. Instances of academic dishonesty will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for adjudication.


Primary Textbook:

Additional References: You will not need these books. I’m only listing them in case you want to consult additional references.

Online references: There are many excellent online references for classical control.

Further reading materials/lecture notes will be distributed on Canvas when needed.

Academic Integrity

UCSD's Code of Academic Integrity applies to this course. It is dishonest to cheat on exams, copy other people's work, or fake experimental results. An important element of academic integrity is fully and correctly acknowledging any materials taken from the work of others. Instances of academic dishonesty will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for adjudication.


The material in this course is developed in collaboration with Prof. Nikolay Atanasov. Prof. Atanasov teaches ECE 171A in the Fall quarter.

In addition to that, the design of this course is inspired by the following excellent courses:

  • CDS 101/110:Introduction to Control Systems, California Institute of Technology (Lecturer: Prof. Richard Murray)

  • ES 155: Systems and Control, Havard University (Lecturer: Prof. Na Li)

  • ECE 171A: Linear Control System Theory, University of California San Diego (Lecturer: Prof. David Sworder)