Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Elizabeth City State University adds Qs to its lab

The Aviation Science Program at the Elizabeth City State University’s Department of Technology is the only four-year collegiate aviation program in the State of North Carolina. Its uniqueness is now underlined by the latest additions of “Qs” to the department’s lab: that is, of Quanser Qball quadrotor and Qbot autonomous robot.

Setting up the Quanser UVS Lab at
the Elizabeth City State University
With these devices and a set of twelve NaturalPoint OptiTrack cameras, Dr. Rawat, Associate Professor and Department Chair can set up a complete unmanned multi-vehicle indoor lab and expand the Control Systems, Mechatronic System Design and Reconfigurable Computing courses, as well as undergraduate capstone projects. Plus the Quanser's Unmanned Vehicle Systems (UVS) lab  will be used for three new courses, begining in the fall 2014: Introduction to Autonomous Mobile Robotics, Advanced Mobile Robotics and Aerial Robotics.

The lab will be also used for research in areas such as sensor fusion, multi-agent collision avoidance and SLAM localization. Using twelve cameras, as opposed to a standard setup with six, allows for a larger workspace and makes it possible to expand the number of agents.

Thanks to the complete turn-key solution with controllers included, and on-site setup assistance from Quanser engineer, Dr. Rawat and his students could start their work right away. While all the sensors needed to cover topics of five courses using the unmanned vehicle lab are already on board, the open architecture design of the lab allows for addition of other sensors in the future.

Collaborative mission: first tests of Quanser Qball quadrotor and Qbot unmanned robot
at the Elizabeth City State University

Dr. Rawat also appreciates comprehensive documentation and courseware that come with the systems – that way he doesn’t have to develop all the course materials from scratch, but can reuse materials developed by Quanser. The supplied open-architecture controllers can also be modified for his educational and research needs, saving him time he would have to spend building controllers.

Dr. Rawat also hopes the demonstration of the cutting-edge unmanned technology will help his university attract high school students and excite them for a career in engineering.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WEBINAR: Enhancing Controls Education with the QUBE-Servo

The Quanser QUBE™-Servo is an affordable, fully-integrated rotary servo experiment designed for teaching students control concepts relevant to real world. Built with the same quality and precision that Quanser is renowned for, the QUBE-Servo provides instructors with a state of the art controls lab that will engage students in any engineering discipline.

In this webinar you will:
  • Explore the QUBE-Servo and its easy-to-attach inertia disk and pendulum modules, as well as USB, direct I/O and the new NI myRIO connectivity options,
  • Learn how to use the QUBE-Servo with MATLAB/Simulink or LabVIEW, and Quanser rapid control prototyping software QUARC or RCP Toolkit,
  • Tour the flexible digital media-based courseware and textbook map that can help you seamlessly integrate the QUBE-Servo into your curriculum.
Seats are limited - register today!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Researchers from Brazil Use Quanser Platform for Control of an Active Suspension System

Quanser's Active Suspension
Researchers from the Control Research Laboratory at the Sao Paulo State University, Brazil, study different approaches to control active suspension systems. They use Quanser Active Suspension platform to simulate and analyze the effectiveness of their control strategies. The team summarized their work in a paper "Sliding mode control for Active Suspension System with Data Acquisition Delay," recently accepted for publishing in the Mathematical Problems in Engineering Journal.

The paper addresses the issue of delays that may occur in the PC-based control of an active suspension system. The signal delays can occur, for example, in a network-based control system or due to slow slow data acquisition. The research team proposes using state predictors with sliding-mode control to take delays into account. Both continuous-time and a discrete-time methods are designed and implemented on the Quanser Active Suspension system. Based on the results from simulations and hardware tests, the paper evaluates the effectiveness of these control strategies.

To learn how other researchers have used Quanser systems as experimental platforms for their research, visit www.quanser.com/research_papers. You can also download the whitepaper "The Quanser Platform for Control Systems Research Validation."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Queen's University Students Put Quanser’s Digital Control Curriculum to a Test

As an engineering student, I always loved to play with lab equipment. I have fond memories of building my very first controller to swing-up and balance an inverted pendulum in the last year of my undergrad. We were tasked to design a controller from scratch in Matlab/Simulink, test it with a system model and eventually implement it on the real hardware. I remember how I had discussions with other students about what assumptions we are using about the systems, how we could improve our model to get a better response and how to make our controller more “robust” for the real implementation. In the end, it all worked wonderfully well and I was hooked on Control Engineering.

Fast forward several years, lectures and hours in various labs and I am more and more amazed that it all worked. The one thing nobody seemed to have considered at the time was that we’re actually dealing with a discrete system and are using a digital controller to drive the hardware and stabilize the pendulum. Nobody was worried that their controllers designed for a continuous model would not work (or work well) in a digital implementation or that we didn’t have to design analog circuits to get real continuous controllers. Even nowadays, with superfast microprocessors available for only a few dollars, all they do in the end is running according to a (very fast) clock signal, but by no means in actual real-time.

Intuitively, it is clear that a controller’s performance running at a few megahertz will be hardly distinguishable from one that is purely continuous. However, it is also clear that implementing a continuous controller at very slow sampling rates will inevitably fail. In particular for a PID controller, we know that we are happy to deal with the discrete equivalents of the proportional and integral part of the controller, but what about the derivative part, in particular with respect to measurement/system noise and quantization errors in the feedback signal?

Students at Queen's University test the new digital control
curriculum during their Modeling and Computer Control of
Mechatronic Systems Course
To answer these questions (and more), Quanser has started to design a lab sequence to introduce students to common problems that are inherent to digital controller implementations. In particular, we’re investigating what effects different sampling rates have on the performance of a continuous PD position controller for the SRV02 Rotary Servo, how a continuous control design can be used as a starting point for a purely digital controller using the Matched-Zero-Pole mapping method for different sampling rates, and how to design a pure digital controller directly (and what the implications of different sampling rates on the design process). Furthermore, there is also a lab that investigates typical hardware implementation issues such as quantized measurement signals and buffer overruns. The overall goal is to enable the students to deal with real-world control constraints in their own hardware implementations, and therefore include discussions on how the lab material can be implemented in a programming environment (in high level pseudo-code).

My colleague Amir Haddadi and I had the chance to present the first part of the new lab sequence as part of Prof. Keyvan Hashtrudi-Zaad’s course on Modeling and Computer Control of Mechatronic Systems at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario last week. We were able to get the students started with the new curriculum in a hands-on lab on digital control, and the consensus seemed quite positive. A few students pointed out how the lab has helped them understand some of the theory discussed during the lectures and that they believe the labs will be beneficial for their upcoming design and research projects. We’ve also received valuable feedback from the students and TAs on the lab material and will implement it over the upcoming weeks.

At the moment, the first draft of the digital control labs is only available for the SRV02 Rotary Servo MATLAB/Simulink platform. Future releases will include an offering for LabVIEW, as well as for the Quanser QUBE-Servo platform (both MATLAB/Simulink and LabVIEW).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

WEBINAR: Earthquake Simulation and Analysis

The structural dynamics and analysis topics are an important part of the engineering undergraduate and graduate curriculum in various engineering disciplines. Hands-on experiments, such as Quanser shake tables and smart structures seem to be particularly effective for teaching these topics, offering students a valuable extension of highly theoretical courses. Precise, robust, and flexible, they also meet the needs of researchers for reliable, low maintenance and cost-effective devices.

Join the webinar "Earthquake Simulation and Analysis with the Quanser Shake Table II" on Wednesday, March 19, 2 pm EDT and learn from Quanser engineers about the most popular of the shake tables product line, the Shake Table II, developed in cooperation with the University Consortium on Instructional Shake Tables (UCIST). The webinar will introduce you to:
  • Solution overview - Shake Table II hardware, peripherals, and PC software options
  • Running the experiments using the Shake Table II Software
  • Running the experiments through the Quanser's QUARC Rapid Control Prototyping software
  • Simulating earthquakes using the PEER Strong Motion Database data
  • One-Floor Active Mass Damper (AMD-1)
  • Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) of the structure acceleration data
  • Other shake table offerings: Shake Table I-40 and the XY Shake Table III
Seats are limited - register today!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Research Work Using Quanser 6 DOF Telepresence System Published in a Prestigious Journal

Researchers from Imperial College, UK, and University of Calgary, Canada, focus on understanding forces exerted during surgical procedure - a prerequisite to successful design and application of robots in microsurgery. They summarized their results in a paper, recently published by a prestigious International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery.

Quanser 6 DOF Telepresence System
As an experimental platform, the research team used Quanser 6 DOF Telepresence System, combinig HD² High Definition Haptic Device and 6 DOF Denso Open Architecture Robot in a master-slave configuration allowing for high-fidelity teleoperation with haptic feedback.

Click here to access the full paper online.

To learn how other researchers have used Quanser systems as experimental platforms for their research, visit www.quanser.com/research_papers and download the whitepaper "The Quanser Platform for Control Systems Research Validation."

To learn more about the project neuroArm, visit www.neuroArm.org

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quanser Going for a Ride on a Big Bike

This year our CEO Paul Gilbert will be participating in his 3rd annual Ride to Conquer Cancer. Last year Paul rode over 200km from Toronto, through Hamilton, all the way to Niagara Falls, and helped his team raise just shy of $65K for the cause. Through his personal commitment to this cause, and his passion for social responsibility and community involvement, Paul has sparked a movement in Quanser to get involved and give back!

I am excited to announce that this year will mark Quanser's first year participating in a team fundraising event. We will be taking part in the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Big Bike event on June 5, 2014; our goal is to raise $1,500.00 to support research efforts, and to raise awareness for this cause. We feel like this will be a good opportunity for us give back and support a worthy cause, and to do it as a team is an added bonus.

Quanser is committed to having a positive impact in our community. We have sponsored many programs and initiatives within the academic field over our 25 years, and we have supported various charitable organizations in the past. Our goal going forward is not only to continue this support, but to be more actively involved in our community, and to do it as a team.

We kicked off our Big Bike campaign on February 4th, and we have already signed up 7 team members, and started chipping away at our $1,500.00 goal. If you are interested in supporting our efforts, please visit Quanser's Team Page and donate today! We thank you for your support.

If you would like more information on Quanser's fundraising events, or Paul Gilbert's 2014 Ride to Conquer Cancer, please email me at cheryl.persaud@quanser.com.

~Cheryl Persaud