Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Simple Way To Build A Great Robotics Lab

How many tools do you need to add to your lab to significantly expand its teaching and research capabilities?  Quite possibly, you might only need one, because that one tool can open the door to a whole new range of capabilities and possibilities.
In our experience over the past 20 years, many educational institutions that take even a small step to expand their lab can actually result in a great leap forward in their teaching and research capabilities, not to mention their ability to attract top students.

Consider the robotics lab, for example.  If a given lab has an inexpensive Omni Bundle Lab Solution from Quanser, it possesses a sure and simple way to teach haptics to students and allow them to gain real experience in quickly creating virtual environments. But should it add a single DENSO open architecture robot, it’s well positioned to accomplish a great deal more.
The Omni Bundle Lab Solution from Quanser
As a small industrial-style manipulator, the DENSO allows you to teach more sophisticated aspects of control and give your students experience with a real-world industrial robot.  With its small footprint and sophisticated capabilities, DENSO applications include but are not limited to teleoperation, robot-assisted surgery, rehabilitation, welding and pick-and-place activity. A whole new range of haptics and teleoperation experiments – and industry-applicable experience – is now available to your students. 
The DENSO Open Architecture Robot, enabled by Quanser
This dynamic combination of robots offers benefits at the research level as well.  With DENSO’s open architecture, your grad students can design their own projects and expand their research capabilities as well.  Should they plan to publish their research, they can count on the experimental results that the DENSO and Omni will give them. 

Quanser packages involving the Omni and DENSO robots are solid building blocks that engineering educators around the world are using to build great robotics labs. One such lab is found at Tel Aviv University in Israel.  There Dr. Gabor Kosa is using the DENSO and the Omni to teach teleoperation. The DENSO is also being used for entire control experiments, and to do work in system identification as well as inverse kinematics.  (Below is a demonstration in Dr. Kosa's lab of the DENSO tracking a wand.)

Whether big or small, a great robotics lab is created with carefully chosen building blocks. For many teaching and research labs around the world, DENSO and Omni Bundle Lab Solutions from Quanser represent a solid foundation on which to grow.  To request a personalized demonstration of these robots, simply email

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Small Robots, Big Results

When it comes to engineering education, small colleges and world-renowned universities have more in common that you might think.  They all want to have versatile, effective teaching labs that offer students engaging learning experiences and the opportunity to do advanced research. 

A first-rate engineering lab would leave them well positioned to attract the best students for their programs. Such a lab would also help motivate students to get the most out of their curriculum, explore new areas of interest, and graduate with industry-ready skills.

Centennial College in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is a community college with a well-regarded Engineering Technology program. Recently it turned to Quanser to help them teach haptics and robotics to their students. To do so, Centennial selected Quanser’s Omni Bundle Lab Solution, which consists of three components: the Phantom® Omni robot, QUARC® control design software and associated curriculum; along with the DENSO open architecture robot. 

In the video below, the Omni robot is connected to the DENSO robot with a force sensor that yields haptic feedback. the smaller Omni controls the larger DENSO, and interacts with it on both virtual and real objects.

As Centennial College’s lab demonstrates, the Omni and the Denso are a formidable combination for engineering teaching and research.  There are several reasons why.

The small Omni Bundle is an effective, inexpensive way to teach haptics and robotics to undergraduate and graduate students. Quanser recently increased its capabilities, updated its course materials and made it even easier to use; it’s more ”plug and play”, which busy students and researchers appreciate.
These new capabilities reflect the latest updates in Quanser’s QUARC 2.2 rapid control design software. The updated Omni Bundle’s curriculum also reflects the recent QUARC updates. Curriculum topics include experiments in robot kinematics, trajectory planning, joint level control, workspace level control, haptics and more.  Request your sample curriculum now.  

The compact DENSO robot offers great industry-level precision, flexibility and speed.  As one of the world’s most commonly-used industrial robot arms, it combines high speed and repeatability with powerful load-handling capability.
When the Omni and DENSO are linked, the result is a high-end tele-operation platform that lends itself to all levels of teaching and research. Ultimately, this dynamic haptic and robotic lab combination helps achieve two desired outcomes: students gain significant real-world robotic control experience, and engineering schools graduate new engineers with skills they can use immediately in the workplace. 
With tools like these, it’s clear that any engineering school can achieve advanced results no matter what its size.  Request a demo of the Omni Bundle at

Monday, May 14, 2012

New Reasons For You To Consider The Omni Bundle Solution For Your Lab

Engineering educators around the world have told us how pleased they are with the Omni Bundle - a lab solution for teaching haptics and robotics inexpensively and safely to undergraduate and well as graduate students.

Quanser has now made the Omni Bundle even easier to use. Plus with its updated course materials, it offers enhanced lab efficiency and a higher degree of student engagement. Ultimately, this provides you with a remarkably strong lab solution to motivate your students-and a new and powerful reason to consider adding the Omni Bundle to your lab.

Here's what's new and how it benefits you: 

1. All controllers are now compatible with QUARC 2.2 using the Phantom Block
  • Students will interface with the Phantom Block faster, because several previous blocks have been incorporated into one
  • We eliminated the configuration process that set the MATLAB® path and ran the "get tool offset"
  • Configuration is now automatic. Students will simply open the course materials and run the Omni   
2. New controllers are reflected in the updated course materials 

3. Haptics Labs now use QUARC Visualization Blocks instead of VRML
  • Your students will find haptics experiments extremely intuitive and engaging
  • Creating the virtual environment is easier now that VRML has been replaced
Find out more about Omni Bundle lab solution and how it can enhance the capabilities and effectiveness of your robotics lab. Please contact Oliver Zhang to find out more.

4001- A Robotic Odyssey Continues

On April 26 to 28, 2012, Quanser-sponsored FIRST Robotics team 4001 from St. Robert high school in Thornhill, Ontario – the Retro Rams – competed in the FIRST championships in St. Louis, MO. They were one of over 400 of the very best FIRST teams in the world and expectedly, the team competed hard and made all of us who worked with them over the season very proud. St. Robert teacher Paul Keenan, one of the faculty advisors for the team, was in St. Louis to witness this milestone event and shares his story. 

I am picking up where Tom Lee left off in his last blog post on the topic of the amazing rookie season of FIRST Robotics team 4001, the St. Robert Retro-Rams. Tom reported on the team winning the Rookie All Star and the championship of the Greater Toronto West Regional, in no small part thanks to the best team in Canada, team 2056 from Stoney Creek, Ontario. In the euphoria of the moment I was handed a pile of paperwork designed to get our robot in its crate to the Edward R. Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. Small problem… no shipping crate and no money.

Decision Time for the Retro-Rams
Do we go, can we go? Principal Sarna says “Let’s do it” and we swing into action. Monday night teachers, Bob Chirrey and Mike Manning build a crate. Tuesday afternoon FedEx picks up the crate and two days later it is in St. Louis! A couple of phone calls later we have enough money to send a team of 19 kids and some staff to St. Louis on a 15 hour bus ride. 

Rams Rock the “Gateway to the West” 
After choosing some key kids and offering the opportunity to some more hardworking team members and getting some needed visas at the American consulate in Toronto, the team arrived in downtown St. Louis at 1:00 AM,15 hours after leaving Thornhill on Tuesday morning. We had one day to sightsee before the work began later in the day Wednesday. Some headed off to the mall whereas others (me included) went to the St. Louis Science Center. At 4pm Wednesday construction on the pit and testing and inspection of the robot began.

We competed hard on Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning and amassed a winning record on the Archimedes field (one of four field – each had one hundred teams competing!). With a little luck we might have gone 7-2. The drivers made alliances, discussed strategy, made friends, and drove hard. Many times the students were approached on elevators, in food lines and in the pits and recognized. “Oh, you guys are 4001. We saw your game on YouTube. It was the best FIRST match ever!” There was disappointment when our friends from 2056 chose 4334 from Calgary and not us in the playoffs but as I said, “We are here because of 2056 and they owe us nothing. If anything we owe them a debt of gratitude.” Students bounce back as always and were joining the other Canadians in cheering on the alliance of Canadian teams;2056, 1114 and 4334. 

Why We Went  
The nineteen students had a great time and learned a lot along the way. As one team member told another student in my class Monday when asked about the trip, “It was the greatest experience of my life”. The prevalent theme of the competition could be summed up as, “It is great to be a nerd!”. Although to me the kids looked as normal as any teenager it was the adults that caused the double takes from hair and beards dyed red, to grannies dressed as superheroes. I had heard it was life changing but as a jaded old teacher I thought it was hype but when at our parent meeting before we left a mom approached the principal to thank her because she had seen a tremendous positive change in her son since he became involved in the robot team I bought into the hype!