Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Conferences are for fun too!

Attending few conferences this year we have decided to think not only business and have fun too! So we invited attendees of ASEE 2008 Conference in Pittsburgh to relax and wine and dine with us! Everybody who came could enter a contest to win a Sony Voice Recorder - and the lucky winner was Professor Ilya Grinberg from Buffalo State College. Congratulations!

We also had a lot of laughs with our button contest! The trick was to get one of three different buttons with Captivate more students - Motivate more students and Graduate better students message, and then try to find 2 people wearing a different button from yours. All three of you had to return to Quanser booth to be entered in a draw for three iPod shuffle players. The lucky trio came from New Jersey Institute of Technology: Dr. Deran Hanesian, Dr. Howard Kimmel and Dr. John Carpinelli. Congratulations to all winners!

What skills do controls engineering graduates need to have for industry?

A lot of people were attracted at the 2008 American Control Conference (ACC) to the panel discussion sponsored by our partner The Mathworks, and co-sponsored by Quanser. And indeed it was very interesting to listen to the open exchange of opinions from industry, represented by Dr. Greg Stewart from Honeywell, Dr. Andrzej Banaszuk from United Technologies Research Center, Dr. Michael Moan from Raytheon and our very own Dr. Jacob Apkarian and academia, represented by Prof. Bozenna Pasik-Duncan from University of Kansas and Dr. YangQuan Chen from Utah State University.
The discussion touched the topics of what is taught in control courses: latest techniques versus standard and proven ones; how the control courses are taught and what are the future trends in control education and how they reflect industry needs and changing landscape.

Stay tuned for the upcoming report from the panel discussion!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Quanser Autonomous Robot: Qbot

Coupled with Quanser's curriculum, the Qbot system can be used to captivate and motivate students through experiments as diverse as wall-following, path-tracking, vision processing and autonomous robotic control.

Video illustrates one of mobile robotic applications: vision-based motion planning. Qbot follows the line based on the image taken by the camera. The wheel velocity is controlled based on image feedback.

Quanser Remote Book-Signing Event at ACC 2008, Seattle

At the 2008 American Control Conference (ACC), Dr. Michael Grimble, author and renowned professor from University of Strathclyde, UK, demonstrated a rotary control that mimics complex hand movements - a truly novel way of autographing books that Margaret Awood invented.

As ACC delegates looked on, the LongPen robotic arm etched Dr. Grimble's autograph on a copy of his latest book (pictured here).

Dr. Grimble some distance away at The Mathworks booth (our partner company), was signing a tablet PC (pictured here) - an interface through which real-time memory calls allow a person to enter their signature and have it remotely written by the system. The LongPen was designed using Quanser real-time control software which is seamlessly integrated with The Mathworks Simulink graphical design environment.

Thanks to Quanser's rapid control prototyping, hardware in-the-loop testing software (QuaRC), and some very smart engineers, when autograph-seeking controls enthusiasts are not too busy reading their favourite books, they can create pretty amazing robots with Quanser’s control hardware and software.

The attendees of ACC 2008 had a chance to win one of two remotely signed copies of Prof. Grimble's latest book. The lucky winners are:
- Mr. Hamid Teimoori from the University of New South Wales, Australia
- Dr. Jack W. Langelaan from The Pennsylvania State University

Is it important to have engineering curriculum and teaching tools that are relevant to industry?

Do you think it is important to have engineering curriculum and teaching tools that are relevant to industry? We asked this question at the 2008 American Control Conference (ACC) in Seattle. Here are the answers from some of the professors. What do you think? Let us know!

Prof. Dennis Bernstein, University of Michigan
I hope that ultimately everything that we are teaching the students is relevant to the industry, at least in one way or the other. Certainly, the parts of curriculum that are obviously relevant to industry are very good in motivating students.
So, what I like to do is take an advantage of the years students spend at the university and teach them fundamentals... but I always do remind them and stress the relevance of what they are learning to the industry.

Prof. Andrew Alleyne, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
I think that engineers seem to have a type of mindset that is discovery-based or problem-motivated, I mean, they are going to learn the material much better if they can see why they are learning the material.
Usually a kid wants to be an engineer because they see a car, a spaceship, they see, you know, a wonderful new bio-material and, boy, it would be really cool to do that.
That's why it gets important if you go ahead and show them the kind s of thingd they would be using in the curriculum, so down the line, I think for most engineers, the vast majority of them - that's what is going to motivate them to really pay attention, really focus: I get to learn this because I will be using it here, I can see where I'm going to be applying this.

Prof. Michael J. Grimble, Strathclyde University, UK
Actually the curriculum needs rethinking. Many of the topics which are included are not so relevant. So students need exposure not only to relevant material, but also to relevant equipment they may come accross in the industry or at least the techniques that they are going to use in industry. And so, for both reasons, I think it is a good idea that we rethink how we run courses which are supposedly for industry, but probably are rather more academic than they should be.

Prof. Richard D. Braatz, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Students have a tendency to compartmentalize information into the little boxes, no to see the interconnections. And one of the big place where we see a lot of compartmentalizing is between what they do on the paper and what they should do in practice.
I have an entire class that can do a great job at pencil and paper, but then you actually give them a real system and they need a tow. Because that aspect of engineering is learning by doing. If you don't get to do anything, you are not going to learn how to apply it in practice.

Prof. Stephen Kahne, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
First of all, most of our graduates will go to industry. Secondly, our students need motivation, and these tools can provide some motivation. Yes, and these hands-on experimental opportunities for kids to find out what control can do for them are very useful.
People don't really realize that a lot of what they are doing is empowered by and actually, there is control technology at work.

Prof. Chaouki D. Abdallah, New Mexico University
I do believe it's important to have engineering tools in teaching relevant to industry, I think it's more important however to have industry also be involved from the educational aspect, to undersatnd the educational measures.
It's much more important from our point of view as educators to educate students who can work in multiple industries rather than a particular one. So rather than training people in particular tool, what we would like to do, or what we strive to do is really to teach students how to use certain tools, but be able to go to multiple industries and multiple applications.