Sunday, June 24, 2012

A HIL of a Way to Accelerate Learning

Through an innovative configuration of servo motor technology, virtual reality visualization, and true Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) control, students can achieve deeper comprehension of complex concepts, while having more fun than they could have ever imagined in an undergraduate lab.

Participants required little or no coaching before they began to master the system.

This was amply demonstrated last week at Quanser’s Innovation Hub at the ASEE 2012 Conference in San Antonio, Texas, when a team of Quanser engineers introduced the Quanser Driving Simulator (QDS) to an international audience of engineering educators and students.
Professors and students alike found the Quanser Driving Simulator
experience to be completely captivating. 
Two rotary servo motors are the hardware at the heart of the QDS’s HIL control system. The servo motors work in conjunction with Quanser’s immersive 3D visualization and a software platform that bring together National Instruments’ LabVIEW™ and the new Quanser Rapid Control Prototyping Control Toolkit software add-on. Working as an integrated system, they accelerate students’ ability to grasp important concepts, including position control and speed control.

Two rotary servo motors are at the heart of the Quanser Driving Simulator. The left motor
reflects speed control and the right motor shows position control.

Students can “drive” the car and see the car’s virtual response on a virtual track through the software model.  They can also see it in reality through the servo motors. As a result, the concepts they’re focused on become real, hands-on experiences because there now is a direct connection between the concepts themselves and the various parameters and analytical techniques being studied.

Not surprisingly the Driving Simulator proved to be a star attraction at ASEE 2012, garnering constant attention throughout the three days of the conference.  

Take a look (below) at the QDS video that played onsite at the ASEE 2012 Conference. It features two University of Toronto engineering students talking about their positive experiences using the Driving Simulator. 

Coming Soon:  Stay tuned to this blog to see an exciting video that captures all the "hubbub" surrounding the Quanser Innovation Hub and its featured attraction, the Quanser Driving Simulator.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Accuracy Soars, Research Costs Stay Grounded Using Quanser HIL Solution

Two of the most valuable benefits of Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) development are increased research accuracy and dramatically decreased research costs. Recent work supervised by Professor Manfredi Maggiore of theDepartment of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Toronto amply underscore that fact. Professor Maggiore spoke with us recently after a visit to Quanser headquarters.

Quanser: In terms of teaching and research, you’ve worked with Quanser experiments and solutions for a number of years. What is the recent high-level problem you were trying to solve or investigate?
Professor Manfredi Maggiore: My M.A.Sc. students, Farid Zare Seisan and Ashton Roza, have developed a method to control the position of a class of autonomous aerial vehicles (e.g., quadrotor and coaxial helicopters). We were particularly interested in testing this approach on a coaxial helicopter steered using a moving mass actuator.
A 3D representation of Professor Maggiore's concept helicopter
using QUARC's 3D visualization tools.

Quanser: What was the methodology you used to tackle the problem?
Prof. Maggiore: Developing helicopter prototypes is expensive and time-consuming. Additionally, significant discrepancies exist between the actual behaviour of the helicopter and that of its mathematical model. Such discrepancies are so relevant that they can invalidate a theoretical control design. One of the main causes of the above discrepancies is the uncertainty in the models of sensors and actuators.
Concerning sensors, it is well-known that the estimate of the helicopter attitude using IMU (inertial measurement unit) measurements and complementary filters is noisy and inaccurate. With regard to actuators, the aerodynamic models typically used to model the lift generated by propellers are overly simplified, and do not take into account the motor dynamics and a number of aerodynamic effects. For our coaxial helicopter, we imagined that the moving mass actuator would limit the performance of the closed-loop system, but we had no concrete idea of the extent of this limitation.
We wanted to test our controllers in a realistic scenario that would take into account sensor and actuator limitations, but without having to spend the time and money to develop a full helicopter prototype. We used the Quanser 3 DOF Gyroscope experiment to do a hardware-in-the-loop simulation of the coaxial helicopter.
Shown:  HIL rapid prototyping device consisting of Quanser's 3 DOF Gyroscope
retrofitted with Quanser's HiQ avionics sensor board.

This experiment works like this. A microcontroller with IMU is mounted on a plate placed at the centre of a fully actuated 3 DOF gyroscope. The gyroscope is driven by the Simulink simulation of the coaxial helicopter. In turn, the simulation receives inputs from real sensors and actuators. Specifically, the feedback in Simulink is implemented using actual IMU measurements, and the helicopter dynamics are affected by the actual displacement of the moving mass actuator, which is driven by the reference signals generated by the position controller in the Simulink diagram.

                                                                                                                      - Quanser Video 

Quanser: In using the hardware-in-the-loop platform to study the problem, did you discover anything about the problem that you would not have seen otherwise?
Prof. Maggiore: We realized that the moving mass actuator had a time delay of the order of 0.1 seconds which severely limited the stability and performance of the closed-loop system. This forced us to detune their controller to make it less aggressive. We also realized that although the sensor noise can be significant, it does not pose a stability problem. It only induces a steady-state error in the helicopter's position.
The moral of the story for us was that the design of a moving mass actuator is crucial, and it should be improved before trying to develop a prototype of a coaxial helicopter. The HIL scenario allowed us to do that quickly and without incurring major research costs.

Quanser: What benefits do you see for using this type of hardware-in-the-loop system in the classroom, undergraduate or graduate, or for research?
Prof. Maggiore: The hardware-in-the-loop system described above (the Quanser 3 DOF gyroscope with an external moving mass actuator) allowed us to take an intermediate step between a purely theoretical analysis and the full implementation of a coaxial helicopter with a moving mass actuator. Quanser’s real-time control software, QUARC, provides the ideal development tools to implement such a system from theoretical analysis to hardware-in-the-loop simulations, and even full hardware implementation.
On the research side, more work can be done to exploit this platform. For instance, one could include actual motors and propellers in the hardware-in-the-loop simulation to test the impact of the motor dynamics on the closed-loop system. On the teaching side, one could use the Quanser 3 DOF gyroscope to present an evocative simulation of a UAV, one in which certain practical issues are taken into account.

Funding a full UAV lab for teaching courses is a challenge for many professors, especially when you consider the maintenance involved in running such a lab and the safety precautions that would have to be adopted. All in all, we were extremely happy with the 3 DOF Gyroscope experiment, and we learned a great deal from it.

Quanser: Thank you, Professor Maggiore.

Dr. Manfredi Maggiore is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, in Toronto, Canada.  He has been  associated with the University's Systems Control Group since September, 2000.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Research Outcomes Presented at 2012 American Control Conference

If you are attending the American Control Conference 2012 in Montreal next week, you'll receive an excellent overview of the current progress being made in key aspects of controls research. Quanser is pleased to be part of this year's ACC.

Join us on Tuesday, June 26 for a "Health Management, Fault-tolerant Control, and Cooperative Control of Unmanned Aircraft" workshop. This full-day workshop focuses on research activities and outcomes on the health management, fault diagnosis, fault-tolerant control, and cooperative control applications, with emphasis on UAVs.

The workshop includes a live demonstration of Quanser's 3 DOF Gyroscope with HiQ Avionics Data Acquisition board, a great example of Hardware-In-The-Loop platform integration with 3D simulation of unmanned systems. Workshop participants will also have an opportunity to visit Concordia University Networked Autonomous Vehicles Lab (NAVL) for a flight demonstration of Quanser's Qball-X4 quadrotor helicopter. To see the full list of workshop presenters, click here.

Professor Olgac from the University of Connecticut will be presenting his ongoing research on Inverted Pendulum Stabilization with Two-Delays and Cluster Treatment of Characteristic Roots (CTCR) Paradigm at Quanser's booth during the coffee and lunch breaks.

We look forward to meeting you at ACC 2012 and discussing how our control hardware and software can help you advance your research. 

If you are unable to join the conference, and would like to learn more about our research solutions, please contact us directly at your convenience.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Learn about New Approaches to Research at 2012 IFAC Time Delay Systems Workshop

If you are planning to attend this year's IFAC Workshop on Time Delay Systems, you'll discover some of the latest initiatives that research specialists in the field of controls and time delay systems have been exploring. Learn how their research is accelerated using real-time rapid prototyping tools and open-architecture systems.

Professor Olgac from the University of Connecticut will be presenting his research in multiple time delayed feedback systems, using the Cluster Treatment of Characteristic Roots paradigm. Join his presentation on Friday, June 22 at 3:50 pm and experience the interactive demonstration of his work using Quanser's Linear Inverted Pendulum system.

Quanser's Engineers will also demonstrate the effects of time delay on the performance of a master-slave position-position tele-operation. Stop by the Quanser display in the Exhibit room. The setup using two servo plants is a great example of how a modular multi-purpose plant can be used along with a powerful rapid prototyping software to develop, simulate and deploy various time delay scenarios on a real-time control system, demonstrate the resulting effects, and explore compensation techniques in both the teaching and research domains.

We look forward to meeting you and discussing how our solutions can assist you and your research in time delay systems and controls.

If you are unable to join the workshop, and would like to learn more about research solutions for time delay, please contact us directly at your convenience.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Ride Is Almost Here... and Paul Gilbert Is Raring To Go!

This Saturday and Sunday Quanser CEO Paul Gilbert and his biking teammates will be taking the 200 Km Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefitting the Campbell Cancer Institute at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. As Paul and his teammates’ final preparations are being made, we find this the perfect time to thank you again for your generous support.
Paul Gilbert and a "Team Painkiller" teammate have been training hard for this weekend's 200 Km Enbridge Ride To Conquer Cancer.  Check back with us soon to hear more about this great community event.
To all who sponsored Paul, we say your sponsorship, be it through purchasing a team jersey, a logo placement, or simply through making a donation, is important and greatly appreciated.  You’ve more than done your part—and we thought you’d like to know that Paul’s been doing his part too.  
He’s been training since last winter, beginning with weekly swimming and spinning classes, then stationary bike riding for 30 km a day. When spring arrived, he started cycling outdoors on real roads and hills for 30 or 40 km at a time. He continued regular workouts even with business travel to Malaysia, and in recent weeks he, his wife Joanne and his Ride teammates have gone on weekend training runs of up to 100 km.  So they’re primed and ready to hit the road this Saturday.

Naturally, social media will be on the Ride as well. Paul plans to Tweet (@TeamPainkiller) and post Facebook updates, so whether you had the opportunity to sponsor Paul or not, you can to check in and “ride along” with him and his teammates for two days, experiencing all the challenges and triumphs along the way!

Paul and his teammates are confident they will reach their fundraising goal before the Ride is over and he deeply appreciates all the support he and his teammates have  received.  To all those who'd like to take this opportunity to sponsor Paul now, you can. Just click this link to his donation page.  We never forget that individual contributions represent a vital part of the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.  Thanks again to all who rallied to this worthy cause.  And be sure to follow Paul on the Ride!

P.S.  To learn more about Paul’s experiences on the Ride, check out the Quanser Engineering Blog in the days following this remarkable event!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Quanser “Geared” To Unveil New Control Lab at 2012 ASEE Conference

There are plenty of reasons to visit with Quanser at the upcoming 2012 ASEE Conference June 10 – 12 in San Antonio, Texas.  But three of the biggest reasons are a new, control lab experience at Quanser’s Innovation Hub; intriguing product demos at the Quanser booth; and our very tasty, very social ASEE Delegate Brunch.
Quanser curriculum developer Peter Martin puts the Driving Simulator through its paces.

We hope to see you there. If you are unable to attend, be sure to read Quanser’s June e-newsletter for a complete recap with photos and videos.

Visit the Innovation Hub in the Exhibit Hall to See the Driving Simulator Lab

Here you’ll witness the first public demonstration of a new motivational teaching lab experience designed to capture the imagination of today’s video game generation of engineering students.
·         See the power of this hands-on, motorsport-style racing car interface to captivate undergraduate students and enhance their understanding of the fundamental concepts of position and speed control
·         Take a test drive and experience the richer lab experience for yourself
·         Compete for prizes for fastest lap times
·         Win a Kobo VOX e-Reader just for visiting us
·         Demonstration start times:  Sunday, June 10 – 6:30 pm; Monday, June 11 – 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m.; Tuesday, June 12 – 10 a.m., noon.

Here's yet another reason to experience the remarkable Driving Simulator at the
 2012 ASEE Conference: drivers who get the fastest lap times will win cool prizes.

Stop by the Quanser Booth (#313)
Our engineers will be demonstrating control lab equipment to enhance student learning, including:
·         Rotary Servo experiments that integrate with National Instruments CompactRIO and LabVIEW
·         ShakeTable II, a heavy-load linear shaker designed for earthquake engineering simulation 

Join us at Quanser’s ASEE Delegate Brunch
·         10:30 am – noon, Tuesday, June 12th in the Exhibit Hall
·         Meet and mingle with your peers and Quanser engineers

Our engineers are looking forward to sharing learning initiatives that are new, efficient and very effective. Please join us at our booth, the Delegate Brunch and the Innovation Hub. Until then, here’s a sneak peek at the new control lab experience we’re geared to unveil!