Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Teaching Control More Effectively Using Immersive Virtual Environments

Last month I had an opportunity to travel to the 10th annual International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) Symposium on Advances in Control Education (ACE) in Sheffield, England. The ACE Symposium offers controls educators from around the world an opportunity to meet and share ideas and strategies to advance controls education. Discussion topics ranged from remote and web-based learning systems to the fundamentals of control engineering pedagogy.

I presented a paper on behalf of Quanser documenting our recent experiences teaching undergraduate, graduate, and capstone level controls at the University of Toronto. Our approach to controls education was focused on real-world applications of controls topics through virtual environments and hands-on experience.

Peter Martin, a curriculum developer at Quanser, presented a paper at the ACE Symposium 2013 on recent experiences using the Quanser Driving Simulator virtual environment to teach undergraduate, graduate and capstone level controls at the University of Toronto.

An example of this approach is the Quanser Driving Simulator (QDS), a dynamic, real-time hardware-in-the-Loop simulation and high fidelity 3D representation of an automotive vehicle that can be driven in a closed virtual environment. At first glance it appears to be an exciting automotive video game, but in actuality, it’s a highly motivating, interactive controls teaching tool.

Jacob Apkarian, Quanser’s Founder and Chief Technology Officer, conceived the QDS concept and Quanser’s team of engineers made it a reality two years ago.

Last week Jacob and I began our third session using the QDS to teach graduate controls at the University of Toronto. Student reaction to the QDS system, and our teaching approach has been extremely positive. Based on word of mouth, this year’s graduate controls class size has grown significantly, with 25 full-time, part-time and visiting students from the University of Toronto, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and educational institutions in China and Germany.

The new semester has begun and we’re very excited about continuing our efforts to revolutionize the way controls education can be taught around the world. As this immersive, virtual environment approach to teaching grows, we’ll continue to share its progress with you.

- Peter Martin
Curriculum Developer, Quanser

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