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.

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