Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Growing The Next Generation of Innovative Engineers

Back in the 1950's and 1960's, when NASA's space program was getting off the ground, aerospace engineers' average age was in their 20's. Today, aerospace engineers have an average age of around 55. Ten years from now, those engineers will be retired. So it's fair to ask, "Who will take their place?" That's a question many people in the scientific community, including leading entrepreneur, innovator and founder of FIRST robotic competition Dean Kamen, have posed for some time now. It's obviously an important issue for us at Quanser too, since our major focus is on creating educational products and curriculum for control engineering education.

Are young people sufficiently excited by science education today? It certainly doesn't seem so. Engineering school enrollments are down in North America, and a smaller percentage of students graduate than in past years. The fact is, while it may have been cool to be an aerospace engineer in the 1960's, young people today have largely found their heroes in the world of entertainment and professional sports. They're keeping their eyes on the ball alright, but in our opinion, in most cases it's the wrong ball. Instead of a basketball, it should be a ball bearing in a Ball and Beam experiment!

Our motto is "Captivate. Motivate. Educate." and we bring that spirit to the classroom. Our control products, experiments and curriculum are expressly designed with these goals in mind. Dean Kamen has the same goals. Two decades ago he founded FIRST, an organization dedicated to inspiring young people's interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST is like an all-star game for young science and engineering students, and Quanser is proud to be a part of it. Our engineers are committed to it, acting as coaches for the high school teams and also judging the competitions. This week, March 24 - 26, we'll be doing both in Waterloo, Ontario as 30 teams of the smartest, most inquisitive students in Ontario show us their stuff. Stay tuned for a report on what went on.

We've no doubt that the engineering superstars of tomorrow will be nurtured by competitions and collaborations like these. So while our focus is creating exciting, new, cost-effective university-level engineering education hardware and software, in our spare time we're dedicated to ensuring that the excitement of engineering education is ignited – as early as grade school. That way, we're covering all the bases and preparing more students to be part of the next generation of technical innovators and entrepreneurs.

Watch a short interview with Paul Karam, Director of Engineering at Quanser to find out why he thinks competitions like FIRST are important for students - and for companies like Quanser.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quanser Expertise Attracts Advanced Motion Research Projects

As part of his latest experimental research, Professor Venkat Krovi, Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at SUNY Buffalo, was looking to develop a prototype of a 6 DOF motion platform. This platform would move over a fixed base and be interconnected by several legs.

To ensure the smoothest possible working relationship and achieve their goals in a timely, cost-efficient manner, Dr. Krovi and his team at the Automation, Robotics and Mechatronics (ARM) Lab engaged Quanser, a world leader in the design and manufacture of real-time control systems.

Dr. Krovi’s confidence in Quanser was based on experience. He’d worked with Quanser’s engineers before as one of the first users of our brand new High Definition Haptic Device HD2.

From the very beginning, the ARM Lab and Quanser spoke the same language. To generate the mathematical basis for the motion platform project, Dr. Krovi‘s team used Maplesoft's MapleSim mathematical modeling software. Maplesoft is a Quanser development partner, and Quanser’s expertise with MapleSim modeling contributed significantly to the speed and effectiveness of the collaborative process.

Equally important to Dr. Krovi was the fact that Quanser management and engineers fully understood his world. As he put it, “The process became very easy when working with Quanser’s team - from engineering through management, everyone was very cooperative.”

He also found that they could devise solutions in a relatively short timeframe. “We were able to quickly nail down the specifications and proceed through various stages of the design cycle which paved the way to the project and its timely completion.”

The entire process - from concept to working prototype - only took two months, less time than normal in a university setting. This allowed Dr. Krovi’s grad students to remain closely involved throughout. The final product ­ the 6 DOF motion platform Quanser developed with the ARM Lab ­is known as the Hexapod, and it is a key part of Quanser’s Mechatronics Controls Collection.

Quanser's Hexapod is a six degrees of freedom motion platform suitable for research in areas such as earthquake simulation, flight simulation and vibration studies.

Like all Quanser devices, the Hexapod is multi-faceted and designed to work in conjunction with other tools to accomplish a wide range of research goals. Currently, at SUNY Buffalo, the Quanser Hexapod is being used in conjunction with the Quanser Haptic Device HD2 to further needle insertion research by helping design a surgical training simulator for biopsy procedures.

- Note: the Hexapod is no longer available for purchase in North America, Europe, Japan and Taiwan. -

New Approaches in Training Future Engineers: Quanser Speaks at 2011 ECEDHA Conference

Quanser will attend the 2011 ECEDHA Conference in Phoenix, Arizona (March 11 – 15) and take the opportunity to share insights on some exciting ways leaders in engineering education are responding to the challenges of training tomorrow’s engineers.
On Sunday, March 13 at 12:30 p.m., Leor Grebler, Quanser’s Academic Solutions Advisor, will present a Spotlight Session titled “A Renaissance in Engineering Education: How Hands-on Learning is Transforming Future Engineers”.
Leor will outline how schools are transforming future engineers through:
  • Hands-on learning
  • Cross-departmental collaboration
  • International cooperation
These valuable insights have been gained through interactions with almost 100 engineering schools in the US and Canada as well as over 500 university clients of Quanser worldwide. Together they form the basis for high-level learning approaches that are new, efficient and very effective.
As the world leader in education and research for real-time control design and implementation, Quanser offers cost-effective solutions that assist universities in producing graduates with real-world, industry-relevant skills.
For an overview of how Quanser provides added value to universities, click here.
Quanser’s presentation is open to all attendees.