Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How Researchers Use Quanser Systems

With two of this year's control conferences - American Control Conference (ACC) and European Control Conference (ECC) behind us, we are happy to report that Quanser systems help many researchers in their work, providing a platform to validate their theoretical concepts. Here are just a few examples:

Controls Applications in Medicine
Although Quanser's QUBE-Servo rotary servomotor plant is primarily used for teaching controls, it has found its application in research as well. A research team from University of California, Merced, USA and IIT Gandhinagar, India studied the mechanism causing rest tremors in patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, with a goal of suggesting a simple diagnostic tool for this degenerative disorder. The team presented their research results at the ACC 2014 conference, in the paper "Experimental verification of observations relating to Parkinsonian tremor". Using the QUBE-Servo plant, the team recreated tremors similar to those observed in Parkinson's disease patients. Further they explored how observations from simulation studies, suggesting that one of the primary causes of the tremors may be the increased sensorimotor loop delay in patints, can be used for developing and improving diagnostic tools.

Vision-Based Control Systems
Vision-based control systems find increasing number of applications in areas such as industrial robotics and autonomous vehicles. However, time delays that can arise due to image processing can result in undesired behavior of a system, or its instability. In their paper "Time-delayed vision-based DC motor control via rightmost eigenvalue assignment" presented at the ACC 2014 conference, researchers from North Carolina AT State University, USA and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, present an effective design method for time-delay vision-based motor control. Using Quanser's Rotary Servo SRV02, they experimentally demonstrate effectiveness of using eigenvalue assignment based on Lambert W function method to design PV and PIV controllers.

Unmanned Aerial Systems
Unmanned aerial vehicles attract a lot of attention in the last decade, and the number of applications in civilian as well as military sectors is growing. With uncertainties inherent to dynamic models of these vehicles, their flight control system design is challenging. In the paper "Experimental results on robust optimal attitude feedback control of a model helicopter", presented at the ECC 2014, the research team from China's Beihang University and Tsinghua University addresses this control problem. They propose a robust optimal control method to deal with the attitude control of a model helicopter independently of the angular velocities. Using Quanser's 3 DOF Helicopter, the researchers demonstrate the effectiveness of their control approach, as well as the robust stability and the asymptotical tracking properties of the closed-loop control system.

Signal Shaping
Utilizing the recently introduced concept of signal shaping techniques using distributed delays, the research team from the Czech Technical University in Prague explored a double oscillatory mode suppression. In their paper "Double oscillatory mode compensation by inverse signal shaper with distributed delay", presented at the ECC 2014 conference, they demonstrate that a double mode zero vibration shaper can work well in both the open and feedback loop compositions. To validate their research, the team used Quanser's Rotary Flexible Link system.

For more research papers from the ACC 2014, ECC 2014 and other conferences and research journals, visit www.quanser.com/research_papers.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

ECC 2014: The Places You Can Meet Quanser

The researchers and engineers gathering in Strasbourg, France for this year's European Control Conference, will be quite busy for the next few days. The premier controls event in Europe offers them a packed program from June 24 to June 27.

Throughout the conference, the delegates will have several opportunities to meet with Quanser: in the exhibit area, the Quanser booth will showcase several demos of research platforms used by researchers around the world to validate their theoretical concepts. Some of them are actually presenting their work at ECC 2014. If you are attending the conference, you can joint the session on Wednesday, June 25 at 5.20 pm, when the research team from the University of Southampton is presenting their paper Design of Control Functions for an Internet-Based Tele-Robotic Laboratory.

Quanser devices offer a highly efficient platform for bridging the theory-implementation gap, allowing to adopt a framework of hardware in the loop (HIL) implementation of the control system that integrates a physical system (the plant) with dynamics of sufficient realism for physically relevant testing, and a real-time computational and modeling framework that allows for rapid testing of algorithms and concepts. Using such a combination, researchers are able to readily validate their research concepts with a physical system. To learn more, download our whitepaper. You can also visit our database of research papers.

Friday, June 13, 2014

ASEE 2014: Your Chance to Win a QUBE-Servo Experiment

Talk to Quanser engineerins at the booth 1611
If you are planning to attend this year's Annual ASEE Conference and Expo in Indiannapolis, I'd like to invite you to the Quanser booth 1611 to discuss the exciting developments taking place at Quanser these days. Stop by to talk to our academic solutions advisors how we can help you enhance teaching controls and revitalize the undergraduate control systems lab experience of your students.

You will also have a chance to win a QUBE-Servo, a teaching platform with fully integrated components, ideal for introducing students to basic control concepts. QUBE-Servo comes with modern, flexible and open source courseware that you can easily integrate into your existing course, without having to spend time on developing lab exercises and materials.

Our team is looking forward to seeing you at the ASEE 2014 Conference and talking to you about your teaching and research needs.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Quanser Research Papers Database Available Online

Researchers around the world are using Quanser cutting-edge equipment to help test theories and transform ideas into reality. Quanser platforms became the de facto commercial standard for control research validation, presenting researchers with a framework integrating a physical system with realistic dynamics, real-time computation and modeling that allow for rapid testing of algorithms and concepts.

A wide collection of research papers now available online is an example of research covering a broad range of applications, including flight control, unmanned vehicles, biomedical and rehabilitation robotics, haptics, automation and more. Share your research results with your peers - send us your paper and we will add it to the online database and profile your work in our newsletter.

The online research papers database helps you quickly find research work
related to the area you are interested in, or a specific Quanser system.

Complete with all peripherals and software, Quanser platforms let you spend your valuable time and resources on your core research, not on building and maintaining "do it yourself" test rigs. To learn more about Quanser solutions on research, download the whitepaper "The Quanser Platform for Control Systems Research Validation". To discuss your specific research applications needs, contact Quanser Applications Engineer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WEBINAR: From Classic Control to Complex Mechatronic System Design

Traditional control systems courses are based on the mathematical and signal science framework developed in the mid twentieth century. The standard undergraduate course is based largely on characterizing and analyzing system dynamics through differential equations and Laplace transform-based transfer functions. Modern control systems are complex combination of such models and analysis, and system-level considerations from computer control. Often we call such computer control techniques mechatronics and at most institutions, mechatronic design focuses on the embedded programming aspect disassociated from system dynamics.

In the upcoming webinar on June 10, we will present some novel initiatives of Quanser, in collaboration with leading universities, to unify conventional, classic control with systems-oriented mechatronic design.

Join us to discuss best ways to revitalize the undergraduate control systems lab experience. Register today!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How to Change the World...

What do you do when you want to make a difference, to change the world, to make it a better place? You go to the FIRST Robotics Championship, put on a silly hat and take a photo with the sign that says “I will change the world”, of course! And look, that is exactly what I had done recently!

Yours truly making the pledge to change the world!

On the surface, this might look like a joke, with the silly hat and all. But tens of thousands of people gather at the FIRST Robotics Championship with that exact purpose every year for the past 25 years! Our mission is to change the culture in the world we live in: by inspiring our next generation of youth to be involved with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education… through fun and games no less! For those not familiar with FIRST, here is the official introductory video. Personally, I like this one more because of Morgan Freeman.

At the 2014 FIRST World Championship opening ceremony inside the Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis MO

Education is Quanser’s business. So it is not surprising Quanser embraces the FIRST ideals and supports FIRST in numerous ways. At the corporate level, Quanser partners with FIRST Canada to help spread the message of FIRST by sponsoring and mentoring a FRC team, Team 4001 Retro Rams from St. Robert Catholic High School. In addition, Quanser invites other teams, such as Team 771 SWAT and Team 4252 Cardinal Robotics, to our corporate headquarter for onsite visits. These visits usually involve hands-on demonstrations and discussions with our engineers that help to engage and entice the students into careers in STEM. Also, our very own Tom Lee was a keynote speaker at the annual Robotics Symposium hosted by Team 771 SWAT back in the fall of last year.

Dr. Tom Lee giving the keynote speech at the SWAT Robotics Symposium 2013.

Furthermore, Quanser is the Academic Partner with National Instruments. NI is, of course, one of the strategic partners of FIRST and is the supplier of the existing cRIO robot controller and the new roboRIO controller for the 2015 FRC season. The roboRIO is a close cousin of the myRIO platform, which we, at Quanser, have some prior experience with. So personally, I can’t wait to see what we can do with the new roboRIO platform and to share it back to the FIRST community.

Quanser judges and mentors at the FRC Waterloo Regional Competition (left to right): Tom Lee,
Tim Vrablik, Peter Martin, Yona Baskharoun, Safwan Choudhury, and Gilbert Lai.

At the people level, Quanser encourages our employees to be involved with FIRST as part of our outreach activities. Yours truly and fellow Quanser engineers Peter Martin, Safwan Choudhury and Yona Baskharoun are mentor volunteers for FRC teams. Quanser has traditionally supplied ample number of volunteer FRC judges at regional competitions. This year is no exception. We, the FRC mentors, also doubled up as FRC and FLL judges. In fact, there is a record number of Quanser judges (8!) volunteered at five out of the seven Canadian FRC regional events this year. Our fellow Quanser judges include veterans like Tom Lee, Cameron Fulford, Herve Lacheray, and rookies like Keith Blanchet and Tim Vrablik. Representing Quanser at the World Championship in St. Louis this year is yours truly, as a mentor, and Tom Lee, as a judge advisor.

Quanser "Six Pack" at the FRC Greater Toronto Regional East (GTRE) Competition (left to right): Gilbert Lai,
Safwan Choudhury, Peter Martin, Cameron Fulford, Herve Lacheray, and Tom Lee.

As you can see, I have taken this opportunity to share a few of the photos of us at various events this year to show how much fun it was for us. Having fun is great, but more importantly, we know we are contributing to a good cause while we are at it.

Selfie with Herve Lacheray (left) and Tom Lee (right)!
Judges with FIRST founder Dean Kamen at the FRC Montreal Regional Competition. Herve Lacheray (back row, second from the left) and Keith Blanchet (back row, fourth from the left) are Quanser's representations.

On a more personal level, this is my fourth year getting involved with FIRST. Up until this year, my main involvement was being a mentor for an all-girl FRC team, SWAT 771, from St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School in Oakville, Ontario. Heavily influenced by the veteran judges surrounding me at the Quanser office, I was motivated to volunteer as a judge as well this year. As a rookie judge, I found the experience refreshing and invaluable. The perspective of being a judge is different, yet complementary, to the experience of being a mentor. Not only did I learn a lot from talking to the students of other teams (expanding my horizon), I have gained a lot of experience (and wisdom) from my fellow judges.

More selfie! This time with the banner of my team at the FRC Waterloo Regional Competition.

As a parent to a young child, I was also motivated to start my own Jr. FLL team this year. While the Jr. FLL program is non competitive, the satisfaction in seeing how the young kids learn and explore through Lego and play is enormous. It is truly amazing how the little minds are like sponges, soaking up and learning everything they can. As a geek and engineer, the most fulfilling (and personal favorite) aspect from my Jr. FLL experience this year was teaching them about simple machines. Prior to the simple machine session, I didn’t expect the group would be able to retain a lot from what I was about to teach them. My best hope was perhaps they can recall a couple of the more common and obvious simple machines, like wheels and screws. To my astonishment, they managed to recall all seven of them (We had some debates as to whether there are 6 or 7 simple machines… in the end, we decided to teach all 7 of them: lever, wheel and axle, pulley, incline plane, wedge, screw and gear). In fact, they have now developed a habit of looking out for these simple machines everywhere around them. For example, when we pass by a house, we would stand witness to a very excited child pointing up at the roof and chanting “incline plane” repeatedly; or at the playground pointing at the seesaw and calling out “lever”.

Our Jr. FLL team, the Storm Spinners, showcasing their poster and Lego model at a local Jr. FLL Showcase Event.

What is the lesson learned from all of these experience? When it comes to the education of our youth, never underestimate their capacities to learn and grow, no matter how old they are (especially the younger ones)! FIRST is one of those programs that facilitate a rich and fun environment for the kids to explore and learn. They are learning all of these amazing things without even realizing it. And that is the beauty of the program!

So if you want to change the world like I do, get involved! Volunteer! Or just come out and have fun with us! Hope to see you at a FIRST event soon!

P.S. Congratulations to all of the teams participating in the FRC Aerial Assist game this year! See you again next year!

P.P.S. This year is the 25th anniversary for FIRST. Incidentally, this is also Quanser’s 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion, I brought along the Quanser’s 25th anniversary commemorative jersey with me to St. Louis and put it on our robot in our pit. The SWAT ladies had graciously agreed to pose for the photo. Thanks SWAT!

Quanser was there!

~ Gilbert Lai
Systems, Control and Software Engineer, Quanser

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Mesa Vibratoria" Will Help Prepare Future Peruvian Engineers

Located along the South American west coast and circumscribed by the Andean mountains on the east, Peru is a nation that experiences high seismic activity. For this reason, seismic resistant structures are paramount for Peruvians. Consequently, their civil engineers have accepted the challenge imposed by Mother Nature and therefore universities and research centers are preparing future engineers with the latest technologies for this purpose. The most recent acquisition of Universidad Federico Villarreal in Lima, Peru for the Civil Engineering Faculty has been the Quanser Shake Table II, so their students can run simulations of actual earthquakes.

I had the privilege of traveling to Peru for an on-site installation and training on the "mesa vibratoria" at the university, where I met Professor Omart Tello and his students. Professor Tello teaches Seismic Resistance Engineering to Civil Engineering students in their final year. It was clear that these students were very excited and motivated to learn how to operate the Shake Table II system. On the fist day of training, they quickly learned to set up and run the experiments using the two distinct methods: using the Graphical User Interface that Quanser provides for running Shake Table II experiments, and using QUARC/Simulink models. In the following day, the training was focused on recording results for further analysis and downloading and running other earthquake files from the PEER Strong Motion database.
Professor Tello (second from the left) and his team have many plans for using
the Quanser Shake Table II for teaching, as well as research.
Professor Tello plans to use the Shake Table II in various projects the students are working on, one of them being the development of a seismic isolator. Their projects include the addition of the Quanser Active Mass Damper (AMD) to the system. I'm confident that with this new resource for the Civil Engineering labs, students at Universidad Federico Villarreal will further expand their knowledge and research capabilities.