Unit 2: Signals and Systems

Characterizing System Performance

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Session Overview

Diagram showing behavior of the robot in a hallway. 

In this session, we’ll learn about poles: what they are, how to find them, and what they tell us about the long-term behavior of an LTI system.

The overview handout provides a more detailed introduction, including the big ideas of the session, key vocabulary, what you should understand (theory) and be able to do (practice) after completing this session, and additional resources.

Session Content


Read sections 5.4-5.7 of the course notes.

Lecture Video

Watch the lecture video. The handout and slides present the same material, but the slides include answers to the in-class questions.

About this Video

Introduction to poles, which provide a way to characterize the behavior of a system in terms of a mathematical description as a system function.

Recitation Video

These videos have been developed for OCW Scholar, and are designed to supplement the lecture videos.

Session Activities

The problems in the tables below are taken from the 6.01 Online Tutor, an interactive environment that is not available on OCW. Do not try to answer these questions in the PDF files; answers will not be checked, and cannot be submitted.

Software Lab

5.1.1 System function class (PDF)
5.1.2 Cascading systems (PDF)
5.1.3 Cascade of system functions (PDF)
5.1.4 Feedback subtract expression (PDF)
5.1.5 FeedbackSubtract code (PDF)

Design Lab

Do problem 5.2.1 before the design lab.

5.2.1 Wall finder system function (PDF)
5.3.2 Wall follower system function (PDF)
5.3.4 Wall follower model (PDF)

Additional Exercises

5.4.1 System behavior (PDF)

Check Yourself


Nano-quiz problems and solutions are taken from a previous version of the 6.01 Online Tutor. Do not try to answer these questions in the PDF files; answers will not be checked, and cannot be submitted.


5.5.1 Modeling the controller/sensor (PDF)
5.5.2 Modeling the plant (PDF)
5.5.3 Putting it together (PDF)
5.5.4 Analyzing the system (PDF)

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