Spark Ignition Controller
Yannick Auger Perras, Nicholas Ebbs, Mathieu Gaudreault
Mechanical Engineering, University of Ottawa
The introduction of the internal combustion
engine has had a profound impact on society, in particular as
the prime mover of the automobile. There are presently over 600
million of these vehicles on the planet, and it would be
difficult to imagine the world without them.
Although the development and production of the
automobile is arguably firmly rooted in the realm of mechanical
engineering, several electrical and electronic devices such as
the electric starter motor and the spark ignition system have
ensured its success and widespread adoption.
Figure 1: Spark
Ignition Controller Mock-up
The spark ignition systems found in automobiles
have grown in complexity ever since they were first invented,
and in the 1970s it became necessary to replace the mechanical
switches and distributors with electronic components. This led
to further improvements with the addition of microprocessors and
sensors which allow for very precise ignition timing which would
not be possible with a mechanical system.
The automobile is just one example of the
symbiotic relationship that exists at the boundary between
mechanical and electrical engineering, a line that is
continually blurring as designs become increasingly
sophisticated and functional.
It is common for engineers to work together in
large, multidisciplinary groups, and it is essential that they
are at least capable of communicating effectively with each
other. Beyond this, it is beneficial if they have more of an
appreciation of what their peers in other disciplines are doing,
so that they may collaborate more effectively with each other on
The blending of different engineering
disciplines is epitomised by the relatively new field of
mechatronics, which has already had an important effect on the
way we engineer a wide variety of products, and which will
continue to grow in importance far into the future.
It is essential that mechanical engineers are
capable of appreciating and adapting to these changes in order
to ensure that their discipline remains relevant.