Friday, September 23, 2011

Where is Engineering Education Headed?

Something very interesting happened earlier this week. I was invited by Dr. Tom Lee, our Chief Education Officer, to a brainstorming session with several professors from a prominent Canadian university to explore engaging and effective methods for teaching first year engineering. Also present at this session were four other Quanser colleagues: Paul Gilbert, our CEO; Paul Karam, Director of Engineering; Mahyar Fotoohi, our Canadian Academic Advisor; and Dr. Jacob Apkarian, our Founder and Chief Technology Officer. This was no ordinary meeting, not for me at least.

After the initial introductions, Tom gave a brief overview of Quanser as a company, emphasizing our commitment to enhancing engineering educators around the world. Over the past 20+ years, more than 2,500 institutions have used Quanser solutions to innovate and educate. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of Control Systems and Mechatronics, our solutions have been put to work across a wide range of teaching and research applications, including:

  • Sustainable Energy: Wind Turbine, Solar Tracker...
  • Earthquake Engineering: ShakeTable I, II, III & Hexapod...
  • Biomedical Applications: Needle Insertion, Spinal Surgery, Laparoscopy, Rehabilitation…
  • Unmanned Systems: Air Vehicles, Ground Vehicles….
Following Tom, Jacob demonstrated a series of interesting teaching tools and processes he’s been developing at the University of Toronto. These new tools and processes will help engineering students learn much more effectively. In one of the demos, Jacob showed a virtual car simulator interfaced with 2x QET DC Motor Control Trainers. One of the QET motors represented the steering wheel, the other motor represented the engine of the car. The objective of the experiment was to first try and drive the virtual car using an input device (i.e. a joystick), then to design a controller which allows the virtual car to drive autonomously. Afterwards, students are tasked to see how their autonomous vehicle performed against their fellow classmates. Here's a really cool video of the demo, check it out:

After Jacob’s demo, a Director from the prominent Engineering Institution presented a concept they are currently exploring. Their engineering department is looking for ways to offer future students an even more immersive experiential learning environment. One point clearly emerged from these discussions: students today are more engaged than ever and eager to work on relevant challenges such as sustainable energy, earthquake engineering and haptic biomedical applications.

Over the course of the next few months and more, we will be exploring where Engineering Education is heading with much rigor. Stay tuned and be sure to leave your thoughts and comments on our LinkedIn discussion boards: Engineer A Better World & Real-Time Control, Robotic and Mechatronic Systems

Quote of the Day:
'Quanser is small enough to be quick and nimble, and big enough to be dangerously disruptive.' - Tom

Sunny Ray
Technology Evangelist
Academic Community Advisor

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