Thursday, June 27, 2013

How Professors Around the World Are Using Quanser’s 3 DOF Helicopter

Professors all around the globe have made the Quanser 3 DOF Helicopter an essential part of their control labs. It is being used as a hands-on, undergraduate teaching experiment, as the basis of a student design project, or as an integral part of aerospace research. Quite often, it’s as all three. 

What makes the 3 DOF Helicopter a popular choice? First of course is its fundamental ability to help design a control system that regulates the elevation and travel of a 3 DOF Helicopter. Beyond that, a number of professors have told us they appreciate the high quality of the product itself. Others like how easily it integrates with a large family of Quanser peripherals. Still others value its ability to work seamlessly in either MATLAB®/Simulink® or LabVIEW™ environments. Ultimately, the 3 DOF Helicopter serves as an efficient, time-saving solution that enhances professors’ teaching and research.

Here’s a glimpse at what some professors are doing with their Quanser 3 DOF Helicopter.  

Zhejiang University: Wireless network control research
Dr. He Sun is with the Institute of Industrial Process Control in the Department of Control Science and Engineering at Zhdejiang University

He is using the Quanser 3 DOF Helicopter as a research tool, as are several other graduate and Ph.D. students. Dr. Sun is conducting wireless network control research, that is, receiving the helicopter's state and sending the control signal by wireless channel.

Dr. Sun lists several reasons for choosing to work with Quanser products. He is very pleased with the quality of Quanser service and the Quanser representatives that provide it. He finds the products themselves are high quality as well, and saved him valuable research time. Dr. Sun is thinking about recommending Quanser solutions to colleagues who are conducting research in vibration detection and control.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University: Flight Control Research
A member of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Professor Liu Shiqian’s main research work involves flight control, vision control and unmanned aerial vehicles. To that end he uses a number of Quanser aerospace products. 

They include the Quanser 3 DOF Helicopter, QPID terminal board, QUARC rapid prototyping software, and VoltPAQ amplifiers. He also plans to use the Quanser Qball UAV for his research and teaching course next year. Professor Shiqian relies on a wide range of Quanser hardware and software because he finds them convenient and efficient in conducting successful experiments.

Ryerson University: Teaching a 4th Year Avionics Design Project
As a research associate in Ryerson University’s Department of Aerospace Engineering, Primoz Cresnik focuses on such areas as Space Vehicle Dynamics and Satellite Control Systems, Aircraft Flight Performance and Avionics Systems.

Within the department, he and his associates take advantage of a wide range of Quanser hardware and software to help them teach and do research. The 3 DOF Helicopter, for example, is used to help teach a fourth year Avionics design project.

“In the Avionics course we use the 3 DOF Helicopters, power amplifiers, Q8 data acquisition boards”, says Cresnik. He adds, “for software, we use Quanser’s QUARC (rapid prototyping software) with MATLAB®/Simulink® for both courses.“

The 3 DOF Helicopter and other Quanser products were selected by Cresnik’s department because they offer them several advantages: they get their projects up and running quickly; QUARC rapid prototyping software supports their MATLAB®/Simulink® orientation; the hardware is durable and the service they receive is friendly and helpful.

Bristol University:  A Video on Using the 3 DOF Helicopter for Control Coursework
The following is a video produced by Dr. Arthur Richards, Senior Lecturer in Dynamics and Control, Aerospace Engineering Department, University of Bristol, UK. It introduces his students to control coursework using the Quanser 3 DOF Helicopter.
Dr. Richard's video introduces his students to how they'll be using the Quanser 3 DOF Helicopter in his control course.

To learn more about the Quanser 3 DOF Helicopter, clickhere.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Versatile Shake Table I-40: Small Size, Big Impact

The most compact of our three seismic platforms, the Shake Table I-40 can make a sizable impact, both in your lab and at outreach events. Its versatility is the reason why.

The ST I-40 can be used as a portable, tabletop platform for simulating earthquakes and evaluating active mass damper performance. Students will find it a useful, hands-on tool to help them understand the dynamics of real-world structures. Outside the lab, the ST I-40 also doubles as a lightweight, traveling demonstration platform that can bring outreach programs to life and get children thinking about careers in engineering and science.

The Quanser Shake Table I-40 is a single-axis platform for simulating earthquakes and evaluating active mass damper performance.  It is used in undergraduate labs and outreach programs. 

At 7.6 cm high, 57.5 cm long, 12.7 cm wide, and weighing just 5.9 kg, the ST I-40 is easy to set up, even in space-challenged labs. Powerful for its size, it can accelerate a load that weighs 1.5 kg up to 1.0 g. When the ST I-40 is connected to our One-Floor Active Mass Damper, students can perform structural engineering analysis or develop a controller that reduces the deflections of the building while the table is running an earthquake simulation.
The Quanser one-floor Active Mass  Damper can be connected to the ST I-40  to perform structural engineering analysis or develop a controller that reduces a building's deflections during an earthquake.

Good Vibrations for Professors and Students
At the University of Cincinnati’s School of Aerospace Systems, Professor Kelly Cohen has taken full advantage of the ST I-40’s versatility. He uses it to teach vibration control to his undergraduates. He has also integrated the ST I-40 within a remote lab setup that offsite students can use. Once they log on, they can tune different control parameters, view the measured response on the graphical interface and examine the results in real time via webcam. Professor Cohen can also view their data once it’s saved.

An Exciting Outreach Tool
Professor Cohen has put the ST I-40 to work in outreach programs as well, demonstrating earthquake simulations to elementary and high school students. We also have been bringing the ST I-40 to schools and science fairs for years, both on our own and working with science literacy groups such as Let’s Talk Science
The ST I-40 is an excellent outreach tool.  Here it is part of an interactive earthquake simulation  presented to schoolchildren by Let's Talk Science.

For professors and for students of all ages, the impact of the ST I-40 can be both far-reaching and real. This versatile and portable earthquake simulator can play a significant role in undergraduate engineering labs. The fact that it is also an exciting demonstration device that can encourage K-12 students to consider studying engineering and the sciences - well, that's just an added bonus. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Waterloo Awards Honorary Degree to Quanser Founder and CTO, Dr. Jacob Apkarian

Quanser is proud to announce that its Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Jacob Apkarian, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree by the University of Waterloo, of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The award was conferred on June 15th during the university’s engineering convocation ceremony.

In recognition of his achievements in the entrepreneurial and academic worlds, Quanser Founder and Chief Technology Officer Jacob Apkarian was awarded an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree by the University of Waterloo on June, 15th, 2013.
The university described Dr. Apkarian’s achievements in this way: “Dr. Apkarian is an engineer, entrepreneur and a valued colleague of the University of Waterloo. He is an authority in the area of control systems and related fields such as mechatronics, haptics and robotics. Dr. Apkarian's work contributed to the success of the Canadarm I and II. 

“As an entrepreneur, he founded and grew Quanser, which stands today as a Canadian success story that has transformed the way we study, explore, and design control systems. His body of work spans involvement in high profile national projects to developing the very basis of training systems for engineering students across the globe.”

A number of Jacob's Quanser colleagues attended the ceremonies and, below, offer a personal appreciation.

Jacob has what can only be described as an "overly inquisitive" mind, and his imagination knows no bounds. As a young engineer he made major contributions to many sophisticated projects, including the legendary Canada Space Arm, where he successfully applied his innovative approach and intuitive understanding of Robotics and Control Engineering to develop complex algorithms that are more than likely still in use today.

In 1989 he decided to turn his attention to the academic engineering community and provide interesting and motivating platforms for the next generation of engineers to learn how to put theory into practice. For over twenty years Quanser (derived from QUestion & ANSwER) has continued to develop and advance this dream and continually break new ground.

As his friend for almost twenty years, and business partner for twelve, I can say from the heart that this honour is well deserved and his legacy is that we are still operating ahead of the curve thanks to his mentoring and guidance for so many years.

Paul Gilbert
CEO, Quanser

Quanser is a very open and dynamic organization where the qualities of your ideas and the conviction in your actions matter more than the number of degrees you have, or the thickness of your resumé. But this award was a moment where everybody paused and reflected on a singular member of the team who has achieved what most of us only dream of.

The accolades expressed about Jacob were many, significant, and genuine. And characteristically, Jacob accepted the honours with profound gratitude and humility.

Dr. Tom Lee
Chief Education Officer, Quanser

In addressing the graduates at the convocation ceremony, Jacob made the observation that "intuition develops as 'tuition', in the sense of instruction, is applied." Jacob embodies this principle. His wealth of knowledge and experience is evident in every conversation, along with the uncanny intuition that stems from it.

Combined with his passion for engineering education and a healthy dose of humility and wisdom, Jacob possesses those unique qualities that have made him the successful entrepreneur that he is. But Jacob is more than an entrepreneur; he is a mentor, an inspiration and a friend and he continues to touch the lives of many. The honour was well deserved.

Dr. Dan Madill
Chief Scientist, Quanser

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quanser Solutions Address the Future of Engineering Education at ASEE 2013

The undergraduate engineering lab of the future should represent a vast improvement over most of the undergraduate labs operating today. It should offer an exciting, hands-on experience perfectly attuned to the imaginations of today’s video game generation of engineering students. The good news is, that lab exists – and you can see it at the upcoming ASEE 2013 Conference June 23 – June 26 in Atlanta, Georgia.

See the Undergraduate Lab of the Future, plus the new, low cost, self-contained QUBE-Servo Rotary Servo Experiment and more by visiting the Quanser Innovation Hub and the Quanser booth at ASEE 2013.

Visit the Innovation Hub and Quanser’s Undergraduate Lab of the Future
The next evolution of Quanser’s immersive visualization application – a multi-participant, aerial chase challenge – is designed to captivate students with its game-style approach to learning, while maintaining the rigor of engineering theory. Come by, take control of this hands-on lab concept and experience its teaching capability for yourself.

A 20 minute interactive presentation and demonstration at the Exhibit Hall:
  • Sunday, June 23, 6:30 pm
  • Monday, June 24, 11 am, 1:30 pm, 4 pm
  • Tuesday, June 25: 10 am, 1 pm

See the New QUBE™-Servo Demo at the Quanser Booth
Along with the lab of the future, Quanser is presenting a number of forward-looking ideas and solutions, including our new QUBE-Servo, a low cost, self-contained, controls teaching platform for undergraduate labs. Stop by the Quanser booth for a live demo and learn how you can build a world-class multi-station lab for under $20K.
Continuously, Booth 553

Hear Dr. Tom Lee and Industry Experts Discuss “The Flipped Classroom”
A panel of industry experts, including Dr. Tom Lee, Chief Education Officer, Quanser, will discuss specific models of innovation that support this new style of learning in engineering courses. This session is not to be missed.  
Tuesday, June 25,  2:15 pm - 3:45 pm, Room A307

Attend the National Instruments-Quanser Teaching Solutions Workshop
This hands-on workshop will introduce you to the NI-Quanser education platform, including hardware, software and courseware that enable you to teach control concepts in a real-world context. If you use NI LabVIEW™ system design software, you should attend this workshop. 
Wednesday, June 26: 10 am - 11 am & 2 pm - 3 pm, Room A312

We hope you're able to attend the 2013 ASEE Conference. We’re looking forward to sharing with you our latest initiatives that promote effective, efficient learning.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Student-developed Driver Assistance Controls Reveal Students’ Creativity and Skills

Just as we threw out a challenge to students at the University of New Mexico to build a better flight simulator, we recently challenged some University of Toronto graduate students to use the Quanser immersive 3D environment and hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) vehicle simulation to design and test advanced driver assistance algorithms.

We did so for two reasons. First, we believe that hands-on learning using real hardware and immersive visualizations allows students to test and refine their otherwise “perfect” theoretical solutions in a real-world or near real-world context. Second, the design and integration of driver assistance systems through massive sensor fusion has been identified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as one of the grand challenges for control. By making this challenge so timely and relevant, we gave the students valuable exposure to the kinds of engineering problems they might encounter in their future careers.

We began by providing students with the basic platform and walking them through some fundamental control system labs to get them familiar with the platform. Then we asked them to think up some driver assistance challenges of their own and apply the collective engineering skills they’ve learned to a creative and relevant project. We didn’t hand-hold; we tried to get the students to work through the research, design and development themselves.

The students implemented some truly creative systems while following the recommended Quanser method throughout their development lifecycle from preliminary mathematical modeling, through simulation, HIL testing, and final deployment. Here are some of the most noteworthy results.

Car Following and Obstacle Avoidance:
One team chose to develop a series of algorithms to replicate a particular driving challenge, namely tracking and systematically passing a target vehicle while simultaneously avoiding randomly placed obstacles. This objective introduced several interesting control challenges and approaches including hybrid control, artificial potential field obstacle avoidance, state-feedback control, and the control of a steered vehicle. 

Visualization provided by the immersive 3D environment gave students an intuitive sense of worked and what didn’t.  This facilitated their development of algorithms that allowed one car to track and pass a target vehicle, while avoiding randomly place obstacles.

Once again, the students followed a systematic design process which began with the development of a mathematical model and control design, continued with the validation of their algorithms in simulation, before implementation on the test platform with actual servomotors as HIL components. Overall the students gained experience working on algorithms and techniques that have the potential to revolutionize the transportation industry. The feedback we received from the students indicated their use of the visualization tool helped them implement their mathematical models and see what worked and what didn’t.

Forward and Reverse Path Tracking with a Front-Wheel Steered Bicycle Model:
This team decided to design and compare controls systems for autonomous forward and reverse driving. Their emphasis was on the development of an accurate non-linear vehicle model to replicate a bicycle tracking an arbitrary path. The students were able to successfully implement their algorithms, and show some very impressive results and performance. 

Students discovered that developing algorithms with dynamic simulation models and hardware in the loop components helped to better predict controller performance once implemented in reality.

More important than their results, however, were their experiences working through the design process itself. The students made several critical observations including the need for accurate dynamic models for preliminary simulations, and HIL components when designing and testing control systems. The students remarked in their final report that, “Developing with these additions (e.g. dynamics, HIL) in mind can help to reduce the time required to tune real controllers once implemented, and can help to better predict the performance of a controller once implemented in reality. This is important because a controller might show very promising performance in a kinematic simulation without HIL, but performs very poorly even when tuned, once implemented on a real system.”

Success in engineering is only achieved when a challenge is met in theory AND in practice. The algorithms being designed have to work in the real world. To that end, the more we can bring engineering labs and projects into the real world through hands-on experiments, visualization and hardware-in-the-loop testing, the richer and more industry-relevant that education will be. That has been and always will be Quanser’s main focus.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Flexible QUBE-Servo Courseware Designed To Support Different Controls Courses

Modern, modular, flexible – that’s a simple, three word summary of the new generation courseware now available for the new QUBE-Servo rotary servo experiment.

From this courseware, professors can take the teaching materials they need, then mix and match them to support the controls topics they’re addressing in their individual courses.

The new QUBE-Servo Rotary Servo Experiment comes with a new generation of mix and match, rich media courseware for easy integration into professors' specific controls courses.

Such flexibility means professors aren’t tied to any predetermined teaching sequence. They can teach their controls courses their way. All they have to do is select any of the provided QUBE-Servo experiments and insert it anywhere within their existing controls course.

The courseware is ABET-aligned and come in rich, multiple formats so the relevant materials can be easily added to a professor’s course notes and lectures. Also included is a convenient textbook mapping guide that allows professors to match control topics to specific chapters from the most popular control engineering textbooks. 

All these features mean professors can bring richer teaching material to their controls courses, while also saving themselves valuable prep time. Win, win! 

To learn more about the QUBE-Servo’s new courseware, watch the video.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Help Us Turn a Bicycle Into a Research Tool

What does a bicycle have to do with engineering a better world? When someone gets on one and rides miles and miles to raise money to conduct important research, everything.

On Saturday, June 8th and Sunday, June 9th, Quanser CEO Paul Gilbert will strap on his helmet, get on his well-used road bike and go on the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer (ERCC) in Toronto, Canada. He and his ERCC Ride teammates are hoping to raise over $64,000 in support of cancer research at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital, one of the five leading cancer research centres in the world.
Research tools like this are being used by Quanser CEO Paul Gilbert, his teammates and thousands of people across Canada as they seek to raise funds for cancer research through the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.  Follow the links to see how you can get involved.

If you live in Canada, you too may wish to take part in the ERCC Ride. It’s taking place on selected weekends in June in major communities all across the country. Should you prefer to help engineer a better world and "ride" with Paul and his teammates by supporting their fundraising efforts, you are welcome to do so.

To find out more about the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer and Paul's team’s goals, follow the links and help Paul turn a bicycle into an important research tool. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Learn How Quanser Control Platforms Help Researchers Validate Their Research at ACC 2013

If you are planning to attend this year’s American Control Conference in Washington, D.C., later this month,  we invite you to visit Quanser at Booth 19. It will be an excellent opportunity to talk to one of our representatives about your research and how you can validate your theoretical findings using Quanser systems.
The Quanser booth attracted a wide range of researchers at last year's American Control Conference in Montreal, Canada.  
You can learn about the most trusted platforms for control systems research and teaching– over 80 high-precision plants that cover an extensive range of applications and control research topics, including nonlinear control, adaptive control, robust control, optimal control, intelligent control and system identification.

More than 2500 universities around the world already rely on Quanser solutions because of their precision, repeatable dynamics, open architecture and modular design. Ultimately, these solutions allow researchers like you to focus more time and resources on core research instead of building and maintaining “do-it-yourself” test beds.

As the world leader in developing control systems plants for research and education, Quanser is well-positioned to help you validate your research in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Please visit  us at Booth 19 to discuss your research needs and how Quanser can assist you in meeting them. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Student-developed Flight Simulator Aims to Take Controls Education to New Heights

In the wake of the overwhelmingly positive response by students to the Quanser Driving Simulator and the remarkable ability of this immersive 3D environment and simulation to provide an engaging platform for learning control theory, Quanser took the opportunity to go to the next level. To really emphasize the unique potential that the platform has to engage students in control systems design and development from the ground up, we decided to hand off the project to senior design students at the University of New Mexico.

The Challenge: Create a high level, engaging, hands-on platform to teach helicopter flight control
The students were asked to help Quanser innovate the way flight control is taught. They were tasked to design an educational platform that is industrially relevant, exciting and engaging; utilizes Hardware-in-the-Loop components; and relates to classic engineering concepts and practices.

We provided them with several Quanser tools and devices, including our 2 DOF Helicopter and Rapid Control Prototyping (RCP) Toolkit with the Quanser 3D Viewer visualization software. Quanser engineers then mentored the team throughout the design process.

The Quanser 2 DOF Helicopter hardware is integrated with the on-screen simulation
as part of the competition-oriented video game that helps students gain familiarity
with the simulation and its controls.  
The Solution: The Quanser 3D helicopter flight simulator takes flight
The students aimed to design a platform that was as pedagogically rigorous as it was engaging. This was important because a great many game-style educational tools are dismissed by serious students. They also knew that the resulting 3D helicopter visualization had to be immersive and realistic, yet simple to control.

To get them off to a proper start, Quanser engineers outlined key success criteria. The first requirement was hardware-in-the-loop components, including the Quanser 2 DOF Helicopter. The 2 DOF Helicopter combined realistic model dynamics and ease of use, and helped ensure the undergraduate students had a serious and industrially-relevant learning experience.

For the second requirement, the capstone team had to create a repeatable, close-loop course for the virtual helicopter to follow that would allow students to develop and test the low level control systems and the high level navigation algorithms. Once these criteria were set, the students went to work on design and development, consulting with Quanser engineers and their instructors when necessary.

The students went one step further and added complexity to their  challenge by implementing an exciting helicopter-and-car chase capability.  This was achieved by integrating code from the Quanser Driving Simulator.
The Project Outcome: An innovative, high-flying, hands-on controls learning experience
Speaking for the UNM capstone team, Kurt Hollowell summed up their experience. “The Quanser (RCP) Toolkit gave us the functionality to control the helicopter at a basic level through LabVIEW. We were able to change various inputs to the helicopter, as well as view helicopter state outputs such as current pitch and yaw readings, changes over time, and so on.

“Quanser’s visualization software allowed us to easily work with the models within our simulation. We were able to import, scale, and change the models as needed all in one place, which seamlessly integrated with the rest of our system. Ultimately, the toolset gave us the power to perform quick iterations during the development of our project."

The capstone project student team from the University of  New Mexico includes (left to right) Edgar Chavez (CE), Mitch Castillo (EE), Davie Torres (EE), and Kurt Hollowell (CE). 

As a platform for control systems education, the 2 DOF helicopter system and the simulation provided by the UNM capstone students now facilitates several flight scenarios for future users, including free flying over a never-ending environment, flying through ring courses, pursuing a car on the ground, and more. Overall, the system gives control systems and engineering students the opportunity to have a realistic and engaging hands-on learning experience.

The development of a complete courseware offering by these 4th year engineering students was accomplished in only 7 months, a testament to the effectiveness of the Quanser rapid control prototyping tools, the design process and the abilities of the students. We believe the successful completion of this capstone project will lead to a vivid new way to bring control theory to life in the lab.  It has already enhanced the students’ ability to succeed in their academic and industrial careers.