Thursday, March 28, 2013

NI LabVIEW™ Users: Choose From 18 Rotary and Linear Motion Workstations to Improve Your Teaching Effectiveness

Teaching professors who use NI LabVIEW™ graphical programming platform have a great opportunity to build their control labs. The reason: a total of 18 hands-on Quanser rotary and linear motion workstations are now integrated with LabVIEW and related NI peripheral devices. This makes it easier to cover a wider range of control topics, expose students to engaging, hands-on experiments, and bring control theory to life.

The Rotary Servo Control Lab for NI LabVIEW includes nine experiment modules and 10 workstations, while the Linear Motion Control Lab for NI LabVIEW is made up of seven experiment modules and eight workstations. The courseware provided with the additional modules builds upon the fundamentals and allows professors to teach advanced control topics, including pole placement and LQR optimization, and advanced linear motion topics, including state-feedback and LQR optimization.

Watch this video to see how we help teach LQR optimization.

By choosing from this array of integrated workstations, you can incrementally build your own high-functioning lab—one that helps your students learn introductory, intermediate and advanced control concepts, and allows you to reach a new level of efficiency and effectiveness in teaching controls, robotics and mechatronics.
Choosing from the 18 available Rotary and Linear Motion workstations allows you to  incrementally build your own high-functioning lab. This lab can help you reach a new level of efficiency and effectiveness in teaching controls, robotics and mechatronics.
However you choose to shape your Quanser/NI LabVIEW-based controls lab, you’ll be exposing your students to hands-on learning that connects theory to real world applications, and you'll be helping them learn more deeply and effectively. 

Contact us today at to discuss enhancing your control lab.

Friday, March 15, 2013

How QUARC Helps Students Understand Controls Better

Ask professors why QUARC®  rapid control prototyping software is so effective in helping students understand control design and their answers highlight all the major benefits it brings to the learning process. 

QUARC is easy for students to use and designed to save them great amounts of development time. Working in conjunction with Simulink® , it allows students to draw a controller, generate code, and run it in real time, all without digital signal processing, or without writing a single line of code.  As Professor YangQuan Chen of Utah State University has observed, “Using QUARC, students can control physical systems in no time.”

By using QUARC, students will spend less time coding, achieve quicker and better results and experience a deeper learning experience. 
Because QUARC integrates seamlessly with the Simulink software that most students are already using, it allows them to test their existing Simulink models in real time on their PC or external hardware, or easily integrate hardware-in-the-loop experiments as well, resulting a deeper learning experience. In the end, QUARC means students can spend less time coding, achieve quicker and better results, and concentrate on gaining a better grasp of control concepts.

Engineering professors around the world are using QUARC to help their students understand controls.  Here’s what some of them have told us about their experiences:

 "Think through problems, skip the tedium"

Because of the time my students can save using QUARC, they can actually design something that will work within the time frame of an undergraduate degree. They can really focus on the important control aspects. They are learning by thinking through problems, doing the exploratory work, practising the theory while skipping the tedium - like hand-coding. Without QUARC, they wouldn't have a hope of completing a project, in my opinion.
  - Professor David Wang, Electrical and Computer Engineering, 
   University of Waterloo, Canada

"Real-time control becomes extremely easy" 
"As an instructor, I always use MATLAB  and Simulink in my teaching, and then students can use their Simulink knowledge to easily interface with Quanser's QUARC software with which real-time control becomes extremely easy. In less than a one hour session, all undergraduate students (who have no prior experience in real-time control) could learn how to build a simple control loop, and obtain successful experimental results.
  - Professor Rifat Sipahi, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, 
   Northeastern University, USA

"Improves the learning experience"
QUARC software is designed so that most fundamental work is done, allowing the students to focus more on the control design theory and less on the workings of MATLAB /Simulink thus improving the learning experience.
  - Professor Wen-Hua Chen, Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering, 
   Loughborough University, UK

"QUARC  offers numerous functional and user-friendly features"

We have been quite pleased with using Quanser real-time control systems for both teaching and research within the past 8 years. QUARC offers numerous functional and user-friendly features. QUARC is seamlessly integrated with MATLAB  and Simulink, provides the means for rapid model compilation and evaluation, and allows for multi-rate simulation, to name a few. In a nutshell, QUARC is a low-cost yet reliable and powerful real-time control system solution, suitable for our everyday needs in controls and robotics.
  -Professor Keyvan Hashtrudi-Zaad, Electrical and Computer Engineering, 
   Queen’s University, Canada

"Students control physical systems in no time"
Students like to work with Quanser equipment. It is easy for them to get started. They just follow the wiring procedure and everything else is just mouse-clicking. Using Quanser’s rapid control prototyping and real-time software, QUARC they can control physical systems in no time.
  - Professor YangQuan Chen, Electrical and Compute Engineering, 
   Utah State University, USA

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How QNET Trainers Help You Prepare Students for the Working World

Last month I told you about how we have improved the QNET Resources that are available with each of the six QNET trainers. I also briefly highlighted the QNET trainers themselves and their ability to help you teach the basics of servo, process, and task-based control, plus introductory flight control, bio-instrumentation and mechatronic sensing.

In this post, I want to continue the QNET trainers story along two lines: the key control topics they help you teach, and the value of exposing your students to fundamental control principles using industry-relevant LabVIEW graphical programming software.

Teach a Wide Range of Controls Topics
The following chart gives a concise mapping between the QNET boards and several controls topics that are common to the study of control in not only mechanical, electrical, and aerospace engineering, but also computer science, applied physics and bio-engineering.

The NI ELVIS II platform and LabVIEW controllers seamlessly complement the QNET line by directly mapping theory to practice, and offering students the hands-on, practical experience they need to compete and perform in industry today.

QNETs and LabVIEW: A Logical Combination That Prepares Undergraduate Controls Students for Industry
At Quanser, a concept we strongly believe in is the “controls education continuum”.  Essentially this continuum encompasses your students’ progress from the lower to upper undergraduate years, through to graduate studies or working in industry.

QNET trainers, in conjunction with the LabVIEW graphical programming environment, occupy a key place in that continuum by offering a modular platform to span a student’s complete academic career.

QNETs cover a wide range of controls topics, while the LabVIEW environment helps students to intuitively bridge the gap between theory and application by intuitively highlighting the direct correlations between the whiteboard and block diagram.

Using LabVIEW, students can learn the essential skills of controls engineering including modeling, control design, simulation, implementation, and operation of a control system from a single environment. The LabVIEW skills they develop by using QNET trainers will be of great benefit when the time comes for the studensty to design controls for more complex plants.

QNET trainers are a highly effective tool for teaching common control concepts to novice, intermediate and advanced engineering and applied science students.   They are designed to fit on the National Instruments (NI) ELVIS II platform.
Using the Quanser Rapid Control PrototypingToolkit, a wide range of advanced Quanser plants from helicopters to shake tables can be integrated quickly and easily into the LabVIEW environment. This enables students to complete a hardware continuum that compliments their progression in controls skills development from the QNET VTOL trainer all the way up to a 2 DOF Helicopter or 3 DOF Helicopter, or from a QNET Rotary Pendulum to a rotary servo-based 2 DOF Inverted Pendulum.

The fact that LabVIEW is widely used all across industry means students can immediately take their practiced programming skills from the academic realm directly to the factory floor. The combination of these two great tools – QNET trainers and the LabVIEW graphical programming environment – thus helps you provide your students with a clear and consistent learning progression, one that effectively prepares them to make an immediate contribution when they enter the challenging world of control systems engineering.

- Peter Martin

Peter Martin is a Curriculum Developer at Quanser

Monday, March 4, 2013

What Makes the xy Shake Table III Attractive To Professors?

In a recent blog post we talked about our Shake Tables and how they help undergrad students grasp complex concepts of structural engineering more quickly and thoroughly. Today, let’s focus on the largest member of the Quanser Shake Table family.

One reason professors choose the XY Shake Table III is its usefulness in demonstrating the principles of structural dynamics to their students through hands-on experiments that bring theory to life. When you consider its ability to accommodate large model structures and big loads, and its flexibility in the research lab, it’s easy to understand why many professors find it such a perfect match for their lab.

As the largest member of the Quanser Shake Table family, the xy Shake Table III moves along two axes and can handle heavier loads. It is designed to accelerate loads of up to 100 kg at 1 g while providing high acceleration and velocity for a lab’s customized structures. 

Dalian University of Technology, China: a dedicated xy table with high performance
As a member of Dalian University of Technology’s Faculty of Infrastructure Engineering in China, Professor Luyu Li uses the xy Shake Table III to conduct earthquake engineering research. One of his areas of interest involves conducting nonlinear vibration seismic performance tests on steel structures.

He became interested in xy table motion when he was working on his PhD, when he began using a Quanser Shake Table II. At one time, he stacked two Shake Table II’s together to achieve the desired xy motion. At Dalian University, he was looking for a dedicated xy table with higher performance (heavier loads, weight bearing, higher acceleration, and greater stroke) compared to the stacked ST II arrangement and decided on the xy Shake Table III. 

Key factors that led to his choosing the xy Shake Table III were its easy-connect capability, its compatibility with the Simulink environment, which he finds very suitable for control applications, and its high bandwidth using linear motor actuators. In addition,  the xy Shake Table III came as a complete workstation, with Quanser data acquisition devices, accelerometers and QUARC® control design software for MATLAB®/Simulink®.

Cal Poly Pomona, USA: a dynamic addition to its structures laboratory
Professor Felipe J. Perez is an assistant professor in CSU Pomona’s Civil Engineering department. He is currently using the xy Shake Table III to assist with undergraduate student projects and competitions, such as the Seismic Design Competition. There are plans to use the Shake Table as part of an existing structures laboratory to demonstrate dynamic characteristics of different structures.

Professor Perez finds Quanser’s strong commitment to supporting his needs more than exceeded his expectations. 
A university-built customized structure is about to be tested on the Quanser xy Shake Table III by Professor Felipe J. Perez in his Civil Engineering lab at CalPoly Pomona.

Universidad Mariano Galvez de Guatemala, Guatemala: a shake table that meets their teaching and research needs
Professor JosĂ© Carlos Gil of the Universidad Mariano Galvez de Guatemala tells us that their xy Shake Table III is used mainly to teach structural dynamics in structural engineering courses. Guatemala lies on a major fault zone and earthquakes are relatively common events. Fittingly, the university’s design course places special emphasis on building seismic-resistant structures.

The xy Shake Table III has been used to demonstrate topics such as dynamic amplification, vibration modes, and the influence of such aspects in the structure dynamic response. Its size and capabilities also allows the school to conduct structural research using scale models. The university acquired the xy Shake Table III after reading about it in an engineering publication. They realized it would help them reach their teaching objectives in structural engineering.

Stay tuned for more posts in this Shake Table series. For more information on Quanser Shake Table solutions, click here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Quanser Salutes “Overall Best Industry-Linked Engineering Institutes” in India

PSG College of Technology (PSG), Coimbatore, and the College of Engineering, Pune, (CoEP) were recently ranked first and second in a joint survey of “best overall industry-linked engineering institutes” in India.

The survey was conducted by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Its goal was to highlight the best practices of industry and engineering university partnerships engaged in by AICTE-approved engineering institutes. A total of 156 engineering institutes took part in this voluntary survey.

Linking engineering schools with industry partners is widely seen as an effective strategy for bridging the gap between academia and industry and ensuring that newly-graduated engineers are well-trained and ready to enter the industry seamlessly.

Quanser supports this strategy in India and around the world. Our role is to develop hands-on experiments for engineering students that engage and motivate them. We offer additional support by providing ABET-aligned courseware professors can use to complement their teaching if they so choose.

Sunny Ray, Quanser Channel Manager for South Asia, speaks with guests at the 2011 opening of  a Quanser Center of Excellence at the College of Engineering, Pune, India.
For some time now, Quanser has had a presence at these high-ranking schools and Quanser workstations and courseware are part of their control labs.  In 2011 CoEP opened a Quanser Center of Excellence, and PSG is qualified as a Quanser Center of Core Competence. Furthermore, professors at both schools are currently writing papers and preparing to publish books based on teaching and research using Quanser solutions.  Clearly their commitment to bridging the gap between theory and practice in engineering education is reflected in the way they are partnering with us. I am not at all surprised they were the recipients of this prestigious award, and on behalf of Quanser, I congratulate them.

To sum up, companies in India are seriously challenged when it comes to finding enough industry-ready engineers directly out of university. Indeed, according to a study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute on the emerging global labour market, only 25 percent of the engineers coming out of institutions in this country are immediately employable. The AICTE survey helps to highlight which schools are doing the best job in bridging the gap between academia and industry. I feel that the joint survey is very important and I look forward to working more closely with PSG, CoEP and other engineering institutes to meet this challenge.

-        Sunny Ray
Quanser Channel Manager, South Asia