Friday, July 30, 2010

Quanser at 2010 Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Toronto

This past week, we had a chance to display a few of our shake tables at the 9th US National & 10th Canadian Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Toronto. It was a great opportunity to speak with many instructors and researchers who are using the shake table as part of their teaching and projects.

For the first time EVER outside of Quanser's headquarters, we had the Hexapod, our 6 DOF motion platform on display. Many attendees stopped as they passed, mesmerized as they watched the Hexapod play out the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 in x, y, and z directions. We also added some random yaw, pitch, and roll signals to give a more realistic effect.

Also on display were the Shake Table II and the Shake Table I-40. These systems are much more portable and great for teaching structural dynamics. You can see a few videos of the shake tables below. Enjoy!

Demonstration of Quanser's Hexapod, 6-DOF motion platform at the 2010 Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Toronto

Quanser's Shake Table II is used by many universities for teaching, research and outreach activities

Monday, July 26, 2010

Top 5 Reasons to Attend the Academic Forum at NIWeek 2010

1. Attend sessions delivered by your peers to learn how they have used NI technology to advance and improve their classroom, lab and engineering education overall.

Discuss the future of engineering education with the
Future of Engineering Panel, which includes Dr. Adel Sedra - Dean of Engineering, Waterloo; Dr. Bill Kaiser - Professor, University of California Los Angeles; Dr. Tony Ambler - Chairman, Department of Electrical & Computing Engineering - The University of Texas at Austin; Dr. Jim McClellan - Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Dr. Delores Etter - Professor, Southern Methodist University.

Join Ray Almgren and Dave Wilson at the
Key Note Lunch as they demonstrate the latest tools and programs that are improving the learning experience and inspiring the next generation of innovators through a hands-on, design approach.

4. Visit cutting-edge labs on the
University of Texas at Austin tour to see work in various application areas and how NI technology is used to further research.

. Learn how student teams incorported NI LabVIEW in their p
rojects from student category of the Graphical System Design Achievement Awards.

For more information on NIWeek 2010 visit or Register now.

If you plan to visit NIWeek, stop by Quanser's booth #538. You can see the whole spectrum of Quanser QNET control experiments in action. Plus, we will demonstrate Quanser's Rotary Motion Experiments along with the newest data acquisition solutions and power amplifiers that are just being released. Or find out how you can enhance your lab with the Active Suspension experiment and why it is captivating students.

We hope you join us at the Academic Forum on Monday, August 2. Quanser will present how professors can utilize QNETs to teach fundamentals of controls at the session titled "Multidiscipline Teaching with the NI ELVIS Ecosystem".

Looking forward to meeting you in Austin!

Newly released QNET Mechatronic Sensors board will be demonstrated at NIWeek 2010.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Ball and Curved Beam Experiment Demonstrated at ACC 2010

At the 2010 American Control Conference we had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Levine from the University of Maryland. He was presenting a paper on the ball and beam control experiment and demonstrating it in person at The MathWorks booth. The experiment developed by Dr. Levine uses Quanser's servo, data acquisition board, and real-time software QUARC. You can see the experiment in this video or read his paper. The paper is titled “A Ball and Curved Offset Beam Experiment”, authored by Jansen Sheng, Jay Renner and William S. Levine.


The straight beam in the ball and beam control experiment was replaced by a curved beam mounted away from its center of rotation. The resulting system is much harder to understand, model and control than the ball and straight beam. Nonetheless, the apparatus was constructed, a model was derived using Lagrangian mechanics, and a controller was designed using a linearized model and the LQR. This controller was implemented and successfully stabilized the ball on the curved offset beam.

The paper is available in Proceedings of the 2010 American Control Conference. Please contact us at if you have any questions or comments.

Monday, July 12, 2010

And the Winner of a HP Netbook is...

As delegates at the American Control Conference 2010 in Baltimore gathered to discuss various aspects of control with their peers, many stopped by Quanser's Innovation Hub for a unique demonstration of controls for unmanned systems, where they could enter a draw to win a Hewlett Packard Netbook. The lucky winner is Dr. Nina Mahmoudian from the University of Maryland. Congratulations!

Qball, the unmanned aerial vehicle was the star of the show - and many delegates had a chance to fly it. The interactive demo was focused on the Unmanned Vehicle Systems Lab, a new research platform that allows scientists to work with unmanned systems in a safe and controlled environment - indoors.

If you missed the UVS demo at ACC 2010, visit us at the AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference in Toronto on August 4 or check the video blog from ACC 2010.

Over 200 delegates at the American Control Conference 2010 had an exclusive opportunity to see and fly an unmanned aerial vehicle at Quanser's Innovation Hub. Many entered a draw for an HP Netbook.

Many took a unique opportunity and tried their skills flying the Qball, Quanser's innovative quadrotor.

Delegates could enter a draw to win a HP Netbook.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Engineering Education Around the World: India and Saudi Arabia

I recently had the opportunity to travel to India and Saudi Arabia to get a better feel and understanding of the state of the education systems in these countries. It is clear that higher education is a government priority in both cases, but since the nature of the challenges differs greatly between these two countries, I have decided to describe my experience in two distinct sections.


For context, I travelled to Trivandrum, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi. I visited NITs and IITs as well as a few private institutions. World bank funds being invested in India in addition to the governments desire to maintain a competitive edge over nearby China on the technology front has seen the emergence of a variety of initiatives to build a stronger and more innovative Indian academic system.

That said, although the individual initiatives of small groups or individuals are commendable and need to happen, it seemed obvious that there is still a lack of clarity as to the priorities and overall direction the country would like to see its academic community pursue. This was obvious when discussing the concepts of the government driven Center of Excellence concept and the priorities and process of selecting them which was still quite nebulous by the end of my trip despite discussing it throughout with as many people as I could. It seems I was not alone.

India remains a country with great potential academic infrastructure and an efficient undergraduate engineering system. It seems that the focus on developing the graduate level and research is exactly what is needed, although hopefully, the priorities and direction from the authorities will become clearer in the coming months. In any case, Quanser will be well positioned to respond to the direction given and I am looking forward to my follow-up trip and seminars later this year.

Saudi Arabia:

Knowing the region, Saudi Arabia was not too much of a culture shock for me. That said, it was very refreshing to me (despite the 50 deg C temperatures) to witness the incredible amount of effort put into higher education infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. For context, I visited universities in the Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah regions.

Again, based on my discussions with professors, chairs and deans, Saudi does have serious challenges. The main challenge to motivate, train and keep educated and trained engineers in Saudi Arabia who can act as local innovators to diversify and develop the Saudi economy. I was told that only very few Saudi nationals tend to stay for graduate level education where true innovators are created and that, typically, since jobs are almost guaranteed for them, motivation is a factor.

Since very few Saudi nationals, who remain in Saudi, become innovators, the current trend seems to be to attract foreign nationals from Europe and America to graduate level programs and incentivize them to remain in Saudi to continue to innovate and diversify the Saudi economy. This has led to progressive universities, if compared to traditional Saudi standards, such as the mixed gender King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) to see the day. Having been there, it is truly an amazing campus which is equipped with the latest technologies that should be a delight to any researcher. Many other traditional Saudi universities are also getting equipped in a similar fashion. There is definitely a growing trend towards mechatronics and hands-on education in Saudi which Quanser is delighted to see. Hopefully, Saudi will be able to keep the innovators it intends to create in Saudi Arabia so it can benefit from the brainpower generated.

We should have two of Quanser’s largest labs in the Middle East by the time I visit again at the end of this year to conduct seminars. Really looking forward to it.

- Keith Blanchet -

ASEE and ACC Conferences: Different, Yet Similar

Having spent most of my career in the field of engineering education, with the exception of a few years in the mid-90’s, I’ve been to every American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference since the 1994 Conference in Edmonton, Canada. But, as I am relatively new to the field of controls engineering, I had never had the opportunity to attend the American Control Conference.

So, even though it was Father’s Day, I was excited to embark on a 12-day trip to Louisville and Baltimore to attend the 2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition and ACC 2010 – the American Control Conference.

On the surface the events were quite different. The ASEE Annual Conference drew over 3,500 attendees and featured what seemed like a couple of acres of elaborate exhibits in the Kentucky International Convention Center. At any one time there were, literally, almost 100 sessions taking place. One had to carefully sift through a myriad of opportunities during the four days to identify areas of greatest personal interest and to keep from becoming overloaded.

Paul Gilbert, Quanser's CEO showing the range of Quanser's experiments to one of the ASEE 2010 delegates.

I found ACC 2010, on the other hand, much more manageable. Compactly housed at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, over four days approximately 1,000 attendees toured a dozen, mostly table-top, exhibits and chose special interest sessions from amongst 22 tracks. Certainly ACC 2010 was still formidable – just not as overwhelming as ASEE.

The prototype of a wind turbine experiment got a lot of attention in Quanser's booth at ACC 2010.

Despite the obvious differences, I found, in essence, the two conferences were very similar. Attendees at both were researchers and academicians dedicated to improving their teaching and advancing the learning opportunities available to their students so as to prepare them for academic and career success and to successfully compete in today’s global workplace.

My days were filled with exciting conversations with professors, department chairs and deans eager to learn about Quanser’s newest education and research-based systems for real-time control design and implementation. Our Innovation Hub, in which we demonstrated our new Qball – a quadrotor for Indoor Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Research, drew SRO crowds. At the same time, many educators wanted more information about Quanser’s SRV02 – the base unit of Quanser's Rotary Family – which students at hundreds of universities have used to learn control theory for over 20 years.

As a father I grow increasingly concerned with the world my six-year old son will grow up in. While I missed him greatly over the 12 days, it was heartening to spend the time with educators who share Quanser’s commitment to inspiring and preparing the next generation of engineers – the engineers who will be designing and building his world.

- Alan Jacobs -

Friday, July 9, 2010

Quanser at the ACC

I just came back from 2010 American Control Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The ACC is the annual conference of the American Automatic Control Council (AACC). This year, the conference had gathered more than 1,000 scientists and researchers from all over the world. Dynamics and control, hybrid systems, adaptive and learning control, powertrain modeling, unmanned vehicles control, green energy, nonlinear systems, and optimization were some of the many topics covered in the conference.

Quanser's expertise in control systems is well known at global control conferences including the ACC. This year, Quanser had an overwhelming and outstanding participation at the conference with astonishing unmanned systems live interactive demo and a three-station booth filled with a wide range of Quanser products. Both the booth and the unmanned systems demo were highly appreciated by the visitors.

At one station of our booth, we were presenting Quanser's servos and inverted pendulum powered by our real-time software QUARC. In the booth just beside this station, The MathWorks was presenting a related experiment: ball and curved beam. This experiment was developed by Dr. Levine at the University of Maryland and it was using Quanser's servo, data acquisition board, and real-time software QUARC. You can see Dr. Levine's experiment in action here.

Ball and Curved Beam Experiment Developed at the University of Maryland

At the second station, we were presenting Quanser's 3 DOF Gyroscope and virtual plant simulators. The non-minimum phase dynamics of the gyroscope attracted quite a few researchers and students. The simulation and visualization of Quanser's Active Suspension plant under QUARC had its own fans and followers as well. The third station was dedicated to Quanser latest haptic device, HD^2. This station attracted some researchers interested in the field of haptics, robotics, and teleoperation. Surgical simulators and interaction with different types of virtual environments were some of the demos presented at station 3.

Quanser’s champion demo at the booth was the prototype of a Wind Turbine experiment. This platform will be part of our company’s green energy product line. It attracted many professors and students to the booth. An iPad was used as a graphical user interface to tune different parameters of the system. The controller and data acquisition was implemented using QUARC. This system is highly nonlinear by nature which makes it a great experimental platform for advanced level research. It can also be used within a linear region for under graduate students.

Please note the Wind Turbine experiment is still under development and is not available for purchase at this time. If you have any comments about this experiment, please contact

Quanser Booth at the American Control Conference 2010

This year at ACC, Quanser surprised all visitors by presenting the UVS Innovation Hub, an interactive and live demo of Quanser's unmanned vehicle systems. Attracting over 200 delegates, the presentation consisted of our indoor unmanned vehicles lab, Quanser's Qball, and Qbot. During the demo visitors could learn about unmanned technology for both educational and research purposes developed by Quanser. They also got a chance to control our Qball and fly it. Below, I have included a video for those of you who missed the show this year. Quanser's Innovation Hub received overwhelming appreciation and encouragement from 200 people who stopped by.

Quanser interactive UVS demonstration at the American Control Conference 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

Quanser's Enduring Hero

For the past 20 years, students at hundreds of universities have been learning control theory while doing experiments with the SRV02 - the base unit of Quanser's Rotary Family. This simple experiment has many different add-ons, full curriculum for experiments, and is open-architecture. Over 17 experiments can be performed with the rotary family and researchers are starting to use it more as an experimental platform.

In this video, you get to see the SRV02 up close and learn about what makes it so special.

Video credits to Sunny Ray - director and cinematographer.