Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quanser's 2011 Holiday E-Card Is Here!

Quanser's E-Card has just been sent to the members of the global controls education and research community. This yearour card touches on some great global engineering challenges - and our collective progress in meeting them and engineering a better world. We encourage you to share the card with your friends and colleagues. Turn up the volume and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Showcase your Course Syllabus to the Worldwide Engineering Education Community

Every year, professors around the world are creating course materials to teach control theory. How similar are those course materials? How different? Now imagine if you and other engineering educators were able to tap into the best of them, and learn from their similarities and differences. Without a doubt, such syllabus sharing would lead to significant improvements in global engineering education.

Why not share your course syllabus? It's an excellent opportunity to showcase your work to a worldwide network of controls professors and engineering institutions and get recognition for your controls course design.
Simply email us the material at We'll make it available to the worldwide control community. In return, you'll gain access to a large network of controls professors, the course materials they have developed and other resources for the academic community.

Quanser solutions and course materials are in over 2000 universities worldwide so the reach of your contribution would be enormous. Leading controls professors such as Dr. Dennis Bernstein and Dr. Shirley Dyke use Quanser solutions and are in the forefront of the way controls are being taught. Submit your syllabus and join this exciting community of professors in ensuring better controls teaching and better educated, real-world-ready engineering graduates. It all begins with a simple “click”!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quanser Integration with NI Expands Further

Quanser and National Instruments are taking their partnership to a new level through further alignment of their engineering education solutions. The latest additions to the NI-Quanser synergy are the CompactRIO solutions that Quanser offers for its servo-based rotary control experiments and more advanced systems such as the Active Suspension system, which was recently showcased at several NI conferences in Brazil, Germany, UK, Poland and Russia.

Fully compatible with LabVIEW graphical development software, and offering real-time performance, these solutions allow researchers to take advantage of Quanser’s open architecture experiments and discover new possibilities for complex control and measurement. Controllers and course materials for LabVIEW are included with many systems, so labs can run more efficiently. As a result, students receive valuable guidance and hands-on experience while professors can prepare the lab with minimum overhead.

Thousands of academic labs have already benefited from the flexibility that Quanser and NI's software compatibility offer. "Since NI's LabVIEW software is widely used in academia, the compatibility of Quanser's equipment with it overcomes yet another limit in application. We obtain great technical support from both Quanser and National Instruments," says Dr. Yongpeng Zhang, Assistant Professor, Department of Engineering Technology at Prairie View A&M University in Texas.

The stronger alliance between Quanser and NI will allow universities to look to these two leading edge engineering education companies for an ever-growing range of teaching and research solutions for their controls systems laboratories.

Quanser will continue to collaborate with NI to provide engineering educators with greater levels of integration and improve the richness of their students’ educational experience. In addition to the existing array of lab solutions, numerous systems are in development and will be available to educational institutions and researchers in the near future. Stay tuned for more details.
Delegates at the recent conference "Engineering, Scientific and Educational Applications Based on National Instruments Technologies" in Moscow, Russia had an opportunity to see a live demo of the Quanser Active Suspension system, powered by cRIO and LabVIEW.

Quanser Hosts Two FIRST Robotics High School Teams To Help Them Envision Engineering Careers

What in the world could make twenty Markham, Ontario high school students get up at the crack of dawn and attend an off-campus event before starting a full day of classes? How about the chance to control unmanned vehicles, network with Quanser engineers—and get a closeup view of what a 21st century engineering career can look like?

The students from St. Robert Catholic High School and St. Brother André Catholic High School were here at our invitation because they had entered the upcoming 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), with Quanser sponsoring and mentoring the St. Robert team.

Students, teachers and Quanser engineers meet and mingle to get the day underway.

The day began with an informal get acquainted session and light breakfast for the students, teachers and Quanser staff. After official greetings from Tom Lee, Quanser’s Chief Education Officer, everyone moved over to a presentation area where Tom gave an illustrated talk titled, “What Is Engineering?” In just a few minutes, he explained how broad, individualized and varied an engineering career could be.

Tom Lee, Quanser's Chief Education Officer, delivers a motivational presentation titled 'What Is Engineering?"

The next speaker was Mark Breadner, Executive Director of FIRST Canada, which will host the 2012 Robotics Competition. Mark spoke about the exciting learning possibilities that the students would experience once the competition was underway, and of how today’s experience at Quanser would help the students prepare for it.

Mark Breadner, Executive Director of FIRST Canada, explains how enjoyable and involving the upcoming FIRST Robotics Competition will be for the St. Robert and St. Brother Andre teams.
The students formed into three groups: “Captivate”, “Motivate” and “Educate”, named after the three key benefits of Quanser products and solutions, and headed over to the demonstration areas to get their hands on the robotic equipment. The demo stations featured the Quanser Driving Simulator, designed to teach undergraduate students control fundamentals; the HD^2 haptic device, which introduced students to a robotic tool that incorporates the sense of touch; and an unmanned ground vehicle that could autonomously navigate, detect and collect specified objects.

Each demo area was manned by a Quanser engineer who introduced the students to the equipment, described its functions and real-world applications, then put it through its paces. After that, the students were given the opportunity to control the equipment for themselves.

A future engineer tries her hand at the Quanser Driving Simulator.

It takes a moment to get used to the touch and feel of the HD^2 haptic device.
A student takes the controls of the Quanser Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

Once every group had experienced all three demo areas, everyone reconvened in the presentation area for a lively Q&A session with an all-star panel - Quanser engineers and managers who specialize in robotics and mechatronics, software development, non-linear control, engineering management, educational materials for engineering programs, as well as business roles such as marketing management. Each panelist explained his or her role at Quanser, how they came to be engineers, and what appealed to them about working for a technology company.
Quanser engineers and management staff answer questions about pursuing engineering careers.

Students wanted to learn all they could about the engineering possibilities that await them.

How did it all go over? As one student put it, “It’s interesting to visit Quanser because this is where the actual engineering and innovation gets done. It’s definitely an advantage for us to experience an engineering company first hand.”

St. Robert Principal Jennifer Sarna summed up the day as well. “We were thrilled to come to a real engineering facility, to see what it’s like to be a real engineer and to have the classroom come to life. Our students are very lucky to work with the engineers from Quanser as they prepare for the FIRST Robotics competition next March.”

Everyone at Quanser is looking forward to working closely with the St. Robert team as they prepare for the FIRST Robotics Competition starting in January 2012. Stay tuned for posts in the coming months from Quanser mentors as they detail the St. Robert students’ progress.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Boosting Engineering Expertise and Collaboration with First Quanser Center of Excellence

As an applications engineer at Quanser, I often travel to academic institutions around the world to conduct training sessions for users of Quanser systems. My usual procedure is to install different experiments and then go over them one-by-one, training my audience on our software and our hardware, demonstrating what the experiment can do, discussing what type of research can be done with the system, and of course, what its real life applications are.

However this trip was different. I did all of the above, but instead of addressing faculty members from one university’s engineering department, I was standing in front of engineering faculty from many different universities in the Pune and southern India regions. That is because we were inaugurating the very first Quanser Center of Excellence, situated at the College of Engineering at Pune (CoEP).

Opening the first Quanser Center of Excellence
The Quanser Center of Excellence is a new and exciting Quanser initiative. It is a regional controls lab and a knowledge center. Its role is to be a hub of engineering expertise that all engineering institutions within a particular region can use to serve their education and research goals. In southern India, faculty from CoEP and other schools in the region can come in and start using the devices in the lab, perform their research, collect their data and go. Research at the Center of Excellence can also be conducted through remote connection. Researchers can collaborate and learn from one another, all while having hands-on access to our control software and a wide range of our on-site hardware in the mechatronics, unmanned vehicle systems, robotics, structural engineering and rotary areas.

The numerous available experiments were chosen after consultation with CoEP and our distributor in India, Edutech. They cover a wide range of control applications, starting with basic control topics. Faculty who make use of the Quanser Center of Excellence, Pune will get preferred technical support from Quanser, the latest curriculum updates and special access to our engineers. As you can see, the potential for quickly expanding their knowledge or furthering their research is excellent. 
Dr. Anil Sahasrabudhe, Director of the College of Engineering, Pune and Keith Blanchet, Quanser Director of Business Development at the Opening Ceremony of the first Quanser Center of Excellence.

Three Days of Focused Training and Hands-On Experience
I was in Pune for three very busy and active days. To make the training session relevant and successful, I sat down with the lab supervisor of the Center of Excellence, Pune, Dr. Pramod Shendge, the day before training started. He mentioned that many of the professors who’d be using our devices were highly focused on research. So I suggested that we dedicate one full day out of the three day workshop just to going over QUARC control design software. We did that, covering the basics of QUARC to the professors off to a good start. Since QUARC comes with plenty of demos and complete documentation and tutorials, they would be able to continue learning on their own.

We spent the second day explaining eight key control experiments, going through them individually and talking about the real-world applications these experiments related to. One example was the Active Suspension experiment and its application as the suspension system on an automobile driving down a bumpy road.

On the third day everyone got hands-on experience with the eight experiments. Each attendee came up and ran some experiments, tuned them a bit, and changed  some parameters. Before the end of the training session, everyone had a chance to work with each experiment at least once. I have to say their grasp of the experiments was remarkable.

During the training session, educators from the Pune region got hands-on experience with the new experiments that will serve students and researchers at the first Quanser Center of Excellence.

If you were to ask me what the attendees got out of the three days at our first Center of Excellence, I'd say that they saw the teaching and research potential of our product lineup, but beyond that, they also understood the real value to be derived from the educational and knowledge hub that the Center of Excellence represents. Without us at Quanser being directly in the loop, they can actually start talking, sharing results and collaborating among themselves. The potential for accelerated learning, research and innovation is enormous. All of us at Quanser anticipate great progress and look forward to telling you more about the Quanser Centers of Excellence in the future.

- Amirpasha Javid -

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quanser unleashes robots and unmanned vehicles for FIRST Robotics high school teams to promote careers in engineering

Twenty high school students from two Markham area high schools will get to spend a morning with professional engineers experiencing innovative technology that could inspire them to choose exciting careers in engineering. Quanser will host students from St. Robert Catholic High School and Saint Brother Andre Catholic High School at our headquarters in Markham on Friday, December 16, 2011 at 7:00 am.

"Our young visitors will get a chance to control robots and learn firsthand about what it is like to be an engineer,” says Paul Gilbert, Quanser CEO. “The students will manipulate a driving simulator, interact with a robot used for remote surgical procedures, and control an unmanned ground vehicle as it completes a specific mission. They’ll also have plenty of opportunities to mingle with Quanser engineers and ask questions about the technology or what it is like to be an engineer.”

Both high schools will participate in the upcoming 2012 FIRST Robotics Championships, with Quanser sponsoring the St. Robert student team. The student teams will have six weeks to design, build, and program a 140-pound robot to compete against other high school teams in a high stakes, no-holds barred, robotics competition solving real-world challenges. They will be aiming to earn a place in the World Championship competition this April in St. Louis, Missouri.

“FIRST Robotics Canada is proud to partner with companies like Quanser. Our mission is to inspire young people to pursue further studies and careers in the fields of science, technology and engineering. Our vision is of a world which celebrates success in science, technology and engineering and in which young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes” says Mark Breadner, Executive Director, FIRST Robotics Canada.

The principal of St. Robert, Jennifer Sarna, also appreciates Quanser’s involvement. “By opening their doors to us, Quanser is allowing our students to gain a hands-on understanding of what it means to be a professional engineer, working in a state of the art facility, as part of a company that prides itself on innovation and inspiration."

The robotics that the students will be getting their hands on is currently being used by more than 2000 universities worldwide to captivate and motivate engineering students and produce graduates and researchers with industry-relevant skills and a zest for innovation. The visiting students will gain insight in to how exciting an engineering career can be. Quanser, recently voted Markham’s “most innovative company” by the Markham Board of Trade, strongly supports outreach programs that encourage young minds to pursue math, science and engineering education.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quanser Designated its First Quanser Center of Excellence

Quanser has designated the College of Engineering, Pune (CoEP) in southern India, as the company's first Quanser Center of Excellence

The Quanser Center of Excellence (QCE) is designed to be a regional hub of engineering education expertise - a knowledge dissemination and collaboration point for a geographic region. A Quanser Center of Excellence starts with well-equipped laboratories that allow everything from teaching basic engineering concepts or enabling advanced research in aerospace, robotics, mechatronics, structural dynamics and electronics. 

The official opening took place during a three-day event at CoEP attended by leading engineering faculty from the university and other engineering institutions in the Pune region. Opening remarks were made by Dr. Anil Sahasrabuddhe, Director, CoEP, and Keith Blanchet, Director of Sales for Quanser. Attendees took part in a three-day workshop conducted by Quanser to get acquainted with the wide array of Quanser lab workstations now available for their use at the Center of Excellence. 

“The Quanser Center of Excellence at CoEP will become the focal point of creative collaboration and best practices in leading edge engineering education within southern India’s vibrant high tech zone,” said Paul Gilbert, Quanser CEO. “We expect it will quickly become a magnet of information and inspiration for other institutions in the region.”

The region’s engineering institutions will enjoy a number of benefits from the Quanser Center of Excellence. The QCE will facilitate rapid creation of innovative course materials to assist teachers in bridging the gap between theory and hands-on practice.  It will act as a hub where faculty throughout the region can converge, share experiences and learn the latest educational practices and techniques. Dr. Sahasrabuddhe is eagerly anticipating the future at CoEP. “In the past, students would only study the systems theoretically and were required to undergo special training to use them in industry. Now they will receive such training in the college.”

Adds Gilbert, “At Quanser we choose our partners carefully. The College of Engineering, Pune is committed to innovation and has a strong collaborative relationship with Quanser. I can’t think of a more fitting first partner. “
In the near future Quanser will be inviting other universities in other parts of the world to join them in creating Centers of Excellence that will help graduate a new generation of global engineers primed to solve the complex engineering challenges that lie ahead.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

First Engineering Education Flash Week in Lisbon

“My name is Amin and I am from Quanser Consulting in Canada. Our company specializes in robotics, mechatronics and control systems for teaching and research. We have been committed to enhancing engineering education worldwide for 25 years now, with over 80 different products and hardware-based course materials in more than 3500 universities.”

This is how I introduced myself to over 100 students, professors  and engineering deans whom I met in Lisbon last month. I was attending the 1st World Engineering Education Flash Week in Portugal. The goal of this  gathering was to bring together some of the most important engineering education international events, including :
  • The IFEES Summit (International Federation of Engineering Education Societies)
  • The SEFI Annual Conference (European Society for Engineering Education)
  • The ASIBEI Conference (Associación Iberoamericana des Instituciones de Enseñanza de la Ingeniería)
  • The EED Council (European Engineering Deans Council)
Flash Week  enabled  students, engineers, and professors from various academic and industrial backgrounds to share their thoughts on emerging challenges and solutions for the future of engineering education.

What made the whole event more exciting was the presence of many engineering students from all over the world. Ultimately, improving their education is the main reason for these events. Two different generations - students and teachers - were both participating and sharing their experiences about engineering education. Two main student organizations constituted the major percentage of student attendees:
  • BEST Board of European Students of Technology
  • SPEED Student Platform for Engineering Education Development
Students delegates at Flash Week 2011
 To add even more sizzle to Flash Week, the delegates were given Samsung Galaxy tablets to record live videos of ongoing events, dialogues, and presentations from various points of view and through the lens of different cameras. Although some people found the concept too much of a change, this was a means of reminding everyone of how the new technologies are revolutionizing the methods of interaction and will ultimately influence the methods of teaching and learning. I called the idea” visual twitter”, which seemed quite out of the box and novel.

Messages from a Hybrid Delegate
I received my engineering degree just a few years ago and most of my friends are still university students. On the other hand, I have been collaborating with many university professors throughout my career in Quanser. As a result, I am a hybrid who had a lot in common with both generations of attendees and had a lot to discuss with both groups.

As a robotics R&D engineer at Quanser, a state-of-the-art educational systems center, I had many things to share with people that I met at Flash Week. For me, the most important were these:
  • The knowledge that is gained by hands-on experience is much easier to retain  and very efficient.
  • It is the convenience and capacities of user interfaces that rule in educational systems of the 21st century. Quanser is dedicated to providing the best educational platforms and interfaces for teaching and research.
  • New curriculums should be developed that will allow students to learn in one year what their teachers learned in two years. That is the only way to maintain a sustainable educational growth from one generation to the next.
Amin with Dr. Reddy and conference delegates from India.
My Conference Highlights
My favorite keynote talks were  by Dr. Lueny Morell from HP Labs and Jim Ryan from Mathworks at the SEFI closing ceremony. The IFEES DNA working sessions were some of the most efficient and productive groups, with  teachers and students collaborating on discussions about sustainability, mobility, and IFEES’ vision for future.

One of the most interesting sessions was about mathematics and engineering education. The  authors had used image processing applications to explore a different methodology to teach linear algebra to first year university students. They believe that the concept learned by the students must have a meaning so that they can assimilate it.

Dr. Nagchaudhuri from the University of Maryland used Quanser experiments such as the Coupled Tanks, SRV02 base unit and pendulum to teach real-time control as well as mechatronics and instrumentation, with special emphasis on continued learning consistent with the ABET outcome of life-long learning.

One of the impressive new curricula was an undergraduate two-course sequence developed in Michigan for students to gain hands-on experience in the design and fabrication of nanoscale MEMs and BioMEMs. To overcome the cost challenges, the authors placed equipment from multiple educational entities into a pool available to students from all participating organizations.

Dr. Saunders-Smiths at Delft University of Technology investigated a research-based course on a flight simulator for undergraduates. Their interesting observation was that rather than working on the theoretical parts, students prefer to get straight to work with the implementation and learn the theory in practice.

A hands-on, problem-based learning approach was taken in University of Sao Paulo to teach concepts of robotics to freshmen undergraduate students using LEGO kits.

At Lund University, a hands-on course was given to industry practitioners to refresh their knowledge of process control principles. According to the authors, the objective was to get the participants familiar with common lab equipment and dynamics rather than producing well tuned loops.

Lila, Library of Labs, is an interesting pilot project to provide online access to lab experiments worldwide. University of Stuttgart is the head of the Lila project and a founding member of an international group of universities that specify and implement such lab equipment.

A Worthwhile Week
There were many more exciting surveys and researches into engineering education that were presented during Flash Week. However, it is beyond the scope of this blog to talk about all of them. In the end,  I found Flash Week to be a very inspiring and exciting event for improving the future of engineering education.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quanser wins BIG at the Markham Business Excellence Awards!

The Board of Trade of the City of Markham, Ontario hosts an annual Business Excellence Awards ceremony to celebrate the business achievements of the 10,000+ companies in Markham. This year, Quanser was nominated for the Innovation award and secured a spot as a finalist. The awards gala was held on November 17 and a table full of Quanser execs and engineers were there to represent the company. The final award was announced for the most innovative company in Markham and the winner was...... Quanser!!!

The theme of the awards gala this year was the Roaring 20s, if you're wondering why we're all posing around the classic car.

I was able to capture the occasion on my cell phone camera, so please forgive the amateur videography. Congratulations to the whole Quanser team, as this award represents the skill and dedication of the entire company to make us world leaders in innovative solutions for educational and research technologies.


What Is Innovation?

Before heading out to the ASME DSCC conference in Washington DC last month, I was trying to answer this question.  When you’ve visited over a hundred academic engineering research labs across the US and Canada, you start to recognize some patterns - where some researchers struggle and others thrive.  

The popular understanding of innovation is something that is borne from a eureka moment - maybe someone sitting on a stone and thinking up the next Facebook or hitting their head and coming up with a Flux Capacitor.  
However, for many of our clients involved in engineering research, this is hardly the case.  It takes many years of toil, guiding graduate students, dealing with lots of challenges, and only the faintest prospect that what they’re doing is going to pay off in a big advancement.  

If we define innovation as expanding the physical or thinking capability of humankind, most of the work involved in research does not cause innovation.  It’s only at the very end of the work that some small expansion of human capability happens.  The issue my colleagues and I see over and over again is the effort it takes some researchers to pierce the edge and be innovative.

Coming to the aid of these struggling researchers is Moore’s Law.  The reason why Moore’s Law has persisted is that we use tools we’ve already created to come up with new tools. With each advancement, it gets easier to create and we end up with exponential increases in almost every area related to computation - including robotics, mechatronics, medical devices, and unmanned systems.

The biggest dichotomy in research progress now is between those who are adopting already developed platforms and components versus those who do it all from scratch... from bolts to code.  The latter still happens.  

In any physical research platform there are four key components - plant, power, data acquisition, and software.  Depending on the focus of research, we can accelerate research by adopting as many pre-built components as possible:

Software - open architecture that can allow for quick development of controllers and extend already existing code

Data Acquisition - reliable board spec’d to suit the application.  Building data acquisition (unless that’s the research focus) from scratch is usually a huge time sink for researchers.

Power - reliable power supply is very basic - very few researchers build power supplies from scratch now.

Plant - this is usually the heart of the research. Unless there are already existing plants that can be used for research, this is where to focus should be.

There has been an explosion of creativity in the DIY community because of the increasing ease and falling cost of the software, power, and data acquisition. This creativity is only starting to spill over into engineering research.  The mindset of throwing a limitless number of grad students at a problem is slowly evaporating and being replaced with finding the tools that will get researchers to publishable content more quickly.

As the price of these tools drops and they get easier to use, the challenge of innovating will be more on coming up with new earth-shattering ideas.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Three R's of Control Systems

Over the past six months, I have been immered in a series of amazing new experiences at Quanser. When I joined the company, I was aware of Quanser's well-earned global reputation for delivering the best technology of control system experiments, but every day, I seem to learn something new about just how creative and innovative this company has been. It's easy to see this when you look at our solutions for the hot applications areas such as unmanned aerial systems (Qball) or haptics (HD^2), but one of themost impressive things for me was the elegance of what is considered our "bread and butter" product line - the rotary solutions family based on the SRV02 servo motor. I contributed this article recently for one of our business partners but I thought it might be good to reprise it for our blog. A good story is always woth hearing over and over again ... even if it's not as earth shattering as ...say... our Shake Table!

Mechatronics - Synonym with Modern Control Systems
Modern control systems are one of the most significant engineering achievements of the past two decades. These marvels govern the latest high-performance automobile, next-generation renewable energy plants, and countless miracle medical devices. Though the formal science of control systems have existed for over half a century, modern control techniques combine the amazing advances of the computer revolution with the artistry of traditional engineering design, and the fundamental physics of engineering science. The new discipline of mechatronics is closely related if not synonymous with modern control systems.

Adapting Curriculum to Reflect Real Challenges
From, an education perspective however, this exciting new context has been nothing short of a nightmare as professors rush to update curriculum to reflect modern realities. Revising courses that must now seamlessly integrate mathematical and modeling theory, computing and programming, electronics and sensors, and conventional engineering device design embody one of the grand educational challenges of our time.
The engineers at Quanser, believe they have an important part of the solution. Long known for their innovative designs for advanced research devices for mechatronics and control systems, they directed the same creative energy towards the primary experimental platform for educational applications.

The Quanser Rotary Control Workstation is a uniquely modular experimental platform that will guide students from the most fundamental of control concepts to advanced concepts needed for modern industry and research. The foundation is the humble SRV02 Base Unit (the "heart" of the system). The SRV02 through its controlled rotations can then drive a series of modular experiments numbering no less than eleven. The experiment modules range from the classic Inverted Pendulum (which never fails to draw a chuckle from students), to various industrial robot configurations, to the seemingly magical 2 DOF Ball Balancer. The appeal of this system is not so much the cool factor of the experiments but the educational philosophy designed into the platform.

Relevant, Realistic, Rigorous
Quanser education solutions follow the three R's: relevant, realistic, and rigorous. Relevance comes from a rich combination of industrial relevance (i.e. learning the skills that companies are demanding) and simple fun (you really have to experience one to appreciate this). The realistic quality stems from a careful balance of industry-reflective complexity with student-appropriate constraints that not only challenges but also makes the experiments accessible and engaging. And finally, Quanser engineers believe that rigor cannot be sacrificed for fun. Consequently, all of the experiment modules are complemented with extensive curriculum resources that takes students through the conceptual and modelling background of the experiment, and recommended exercises.

In the modern world, I don't think you could ever do real engineering without seeing the total picture. This includes the device, the software driving the device, and the math that describes the behaviour. We try to reflect this big picture in everything we do. Indeed, the Quanser Rotary solutions have now been adopted by over 2,000 universities worldwide and continues to enrich its reputation as uniquely comprehensive. 

- Tom Lee, Chief Education Officer, Quanser

Want to see how your peers use the rotary control experiments in their labs? Visit our Rotary Control Lab YouTube Channel.

Host Blocks in QUARC 2.2

In our previous blogs we introduced some of the new features of the now-released version 2.2 of our QUARC control software. Today, let's have a look at the Host Blocks in QUARC 2.2:

Redesigned Host Peripheral Framework
In previous versions, QUARC supported the use of peripherals connected to the host interacting with models running on either host or target. In QUARC 2.2, this feature has been updated by introducing a new framework to enhance usability and performance.

Features included in this new framework:
  •  A new Host Initialize block,
  • Updated blocks for devices, such as keyboard, mouse and game controller,
  • The ability to use host devices with remote targets even without Simulink running on the host,
  • The option of restricting the use of host devices to a single window on the host rather than the entire desktop.

Host Initialize Block
The Host Initialize, similar to HIL Initialize, is introduced to work as a hub for configurations and settings of the peripherals on the host PC.

Host Keyboard Block
In the previous versions, interacting with multiple keys by using the Host Keyboard blocks could lead to a messy pile of Host Keyboard blocks occupying the entire screen as the old block only processes one key per block. Thanks to the updated framework, this situation becomes history. By defining the list of keys in the block parameters dialog, the block reads the state of the specified virtual keys on the host and outputs a vector of boolean values to indicate whether or not the keys are pressed at the current sampling instant. Also, it can read the state of more than one key at the same time. Please watch the video clip in the Host Device Usage Restriction section below to see how this block works.

Host Mouse Block
The updated Host Mouse Block brings more functionality into the equation. On top of the absolute coordinates and button monitoring functions offered in the previous version, it also supports scroll wheel state monitoring (Windows Vista or later), output mouse coordinates in pixels, in screen percentage, or high resolution count.

Controlling Remote Targets With Host Devices Without Simulink Running on the Host
A new client program Host Peripheral Client has been added into QUARC 2.2 to support the use of host peripherals without Simulink running. This program monitors host devices and communicates with the Host Initialize block running on a QUARC target. This application can be run manually via its menu item under the Start/Quanser/QUARC menu, or automatically when interfacing to the model through Simulink.

Host Device Usage Restriction
The input from host peripherals can be restricted to a window instead of the entire desktop. By checking the "Use a window instead of entire desktop" option in the Host Initialize block, a special "peripheral client window" will open when the model is started (or the Host Peripheral Client application is started). Actions from host peripherals will only be recognized when this window is the active window. Otherwise they are ignored. This feature can be useful for taking advantage of the mouse as a host device, for example, because it allows button clicks and mouse movement outside the peripheral client window to be treated normally and be ignored by the model.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Quanser at NIDays 2011 London, UK

If you are planning to attend this year's NIDays on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London, you'll have the opportunity to learn about some of the latest developments in controls education from Quanser.
Join the engineers from Quanser for a hands-on session Design and Implement Control Algorithms Using LabVIEW that will show you how practical, project-based learning can be an asset to engineering education. Experience for yourself how effective Quanser Engineering Trainers for NI ELVIS (QNETs) are in solving real-world control problems in the classroom. The one-hour session starts at 11:20 a.m. in the Wordsworth Room.

You'll also be able to see a live demonstration of Quanser's open architecture systems and learn how you can extend the functionality of National Instruments hardware and software with Quanser tools. Stop by the Quanser exhibit to see our rotary SRV02-based system, powered by NI CompatRIO and LabVIEW, in action. Talk with our representatives about your teaching and research needs.