Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quanser at 2011 ASME DSCC: Demonstrating Tools That Can Help Advance Your Teaching and Research

Researchers and academics interested in dynamic systems and control are getting ready for the annual ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Conference. They will gather in Arlington, Virginia between October 31 - November 2 to discuss topics such as dynamic systems modeling, simulation, analysis and design, control theory, industrial applications, and dynamic systems and control education.

The conference delegates will also have an opportunity to learn about leading edge tools and resources that can help accelerate their research projects significantly:

  • In the Quanser exhibit at the conference, our representatives will demonstrate selected Quanser research and teaching systems, including a robotic haptic device and several rotary servo-based control experiments.
  • During the informative, fast-paced Frontier/Education Session on Monday, October 31, the delegates can find out how researchers around the world sidestep developmental obstacles and reach their research goals in a timely and efficient manner. The session, full of case studies, videos and live demos, starts at 6 PM in Ernest Hemingway Salon 1 (appetizers and drinks provided).
Join Quanser at the 2011 ASME DSCC and discuss with us your teaching needs and research projects. Or contact us directly, if you cannot attend the conference this year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Is There a Big Difference Between a Quanser Lab Solution and a “Do It Yourself” Alternative?

It’s a common dilemma: professors want to enhance students’ understanding of control concepts by giving them an immersive experience with practical, hands-on experiments in the lab. But in many cases, they are unable to because they must live within the constraints of their department’s budget.

Under those circumstances, it’s understandable that professors often consider building their lab experiments themselves. At first glance, this appears to be a smart, economical solution. But a more thoughtful, thorough look suggests the opposite is often true.

In this video, Paul Karam, Quanser’s Director of Engineering, compares choosing a lab system from Quanser to building one in-house yourself. What do you think of his arguments? Share your comments with the controls community.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Quanser Expands Its Curriculum Engineering Group To Enhance Course Materials

Quanser’s newest staff member is Peter Martin, a young mechatronics engineer with a particular interest in education. Peter assumes the newly-created position of Curriculum Developer within our Curriculum Group. This hiring reflects Quanser’s growing investment in new products and the importance we place on developing the innovative, time-saving course materials that accompany them.

Peter’s duties include developing course materials for upcoming products as well as updating curriculum for existing products. He is also the lead teaching assistant for a graduate course in modern control theory being taught at the University of Toronto by Quanser’s founder and Chief Technology Officer, Jacob Apkarian.

After graduating from the University of Guelph with a BSc.Eng in Systems and Computer Engineering and the University of Toronto with a MASc in Robotics, Peter was a laboratory engineer in the undergraduate aerospace lab at U of T for a period of time before coming to Quanser.

His path to an engineering career may have been fixed as early as kindergarten, where he would build huge constructions with building blocks, prompting his kindergarten teacher to declare, “You’re going to be an engineer someday.” That was borne out in high school, where he first became involved with robotics. For a school fundraiser, he managed to program the electronics lab’s robot to panhandle for money in the cafeteria.

Peter is committed to mentoring and science education, and has been a volunteer judge for the Canada-Wide Science Fair. His outside interests include playing jazz trumpet, skiing and cycling.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quanser Distributors Active at the Events

September proved to be a busy month for our distributors around the world. Many of them were attending conferences to discuss ongoing challenges engineering educators and researchers face in their work. Quanser distributors took the opportunity to demonstrate Quanser systems that can enhance any control lab and give students hands-on experience, translating the theory they study in class into a practical and easier-to-understand real-world challenge.

More than 300 Spanish engineering professors and researchers attended 32nd Jornadas de Automatica, loosely translated as Automation Days, in Sevilla. With interests ranging from bio-engineering, intelligent control and robotics to real time systems and vision control, our distributor Prodel had numerous interesting conversations with educators. This year, Prodel also brought some motion to the event, showcasing Quanser's Active Suspension system and our Rotary Control Lab Workstation with add-on modules.

Europe's earthquake engineering professionals gathered in Hannover for D-A-CH Tagung 2011, a joint German-Austrian -Swiss Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics Conference. Adept Scientific Germany, our local distributor, had an opportunity to demonstrate the most compact of our Shake Tables - the Shake Table I-40, and discuss teaching and research lab needs with the delegates.

From Europe to Central and South America: in Colombia, ICL Didactica joined members of the engineering schools association, ACOFI, for their annual conference. At ACOFI 2011, ICL Didactica presented some of the most popular systems for engineering labs - Quanser's QET DC Motor Trainer and Rotary Control Lab Workstation.

The Mexican engineering community gathered in Pachuca for the Iberoamerican Multidisciplinary Symposium on Science and Engineering, SIMCI 2011. They were joined by our distributor, MultiON - and their booth got really busy. Attracted by the 2 DOF Helicopter experiment, engineering professors were intersted in learning about the complete workstation components,  QUARC real-time software (yes, the new version QUARC 2.2. supports 64-bit platforms) and the compatibility of Quanser experiments with NI LabVIEW. Many of the professors asked MultiON to bring the live demonstration  to their universities, so our distributor in Mexico will be quite busy for the rest of the year!

To learn about the upcoming events in your region, and about where you can see live demos of Quanser systems, visit Events section on our website!

Friday, October 7, 2011

NEW CAN bus support in QUARC 2.2!

Controller Area Network (aka CAN bus) is an industrial standard and communication protocol originally developed by Bosch in the 1980s to interface the various subsystems used in the automotive industry. Today, CAN is used in many real-world systems including automotive, medical, industrial automation, avionics systems, and marine systems. For example, a modern automobile may have dozens of different electro-mechanical subsystems that need to talk to one another, including the engine control unit, power steering unit, powertrain control unit, any many more.

In a nutshell, CAN is a multidrop serial bus. Devices like sensors and actuators typically interface to the CAN bus via an embedded processor and CAN controller. Every "node" on the CAN bus is able to transmit data on the bus and read data from the bus. Each message transmitted on the bus has an 11-/29-bit message ID, and when multiple nodes are trying to transmit at the same time, arbitration (who gets priority to send their message on the bus) is decided by this ID. This allows devices and controllers (nodes) on the CAN bus to publish data according to unique IDs that other nodes on the CAN bus can read.
In QUARC 2.1 there was limited CAN support via a Peak CAN USB block. The Peak CAN USB block interfaced with a USB CAN bus device from Peak System Gmbh, but the support was limited to this one device. In QUARC 2.2 that block has been replaced with the new Peak CAN block.

The new Peak CAN block in QUARC gives you CAN bus access using any of the CAN interface devices made by Peak System GmbH., including USB, PCI, PCI-express, PC/104, and many other form factors. Any device by Peak System GmbH. that supports the PCAN-Basic API is supported by this block. Simply by selecting the CAN device type in the block parameters gives you the same, uniform interface to connect your QUARC-powered controller to the CAN bus.

We are already making use of this new CAN support in QUARC to interface with advanced robotics and autonomous vehicles. Let us know how you think you can use CAN bus in your research applications! Happy CAN'ing!