Web based control laboratory

Short description

The department of EE faces a substantial increase in the number of students. This puts stress on available equipment, available staff and lab space to carry out practical assignments in an educationally optimal manner, more specifically on laboratory setups that are made accessible as part of OGO projects, lab sessions and project assignments. 

With the growing number of students, providing hands on experience within the official working hours and limited lab space is challenging. Moreover, EE department also offers courses to students from other departments. An example is the course of Dynamics and Control of Processes (6E8X0). Currently, including lab experiments in the course of 6E8X0 is out of question. Furthermore, as EE department, it is not feasible to accommodate certain lab set-ups due to lack of required safety infrastructure in the labs. In order to address such challenges we will develop a web based control laboratory. We believe that this not only provides more efficiency in the teaching process and allows more students to experiment but also provides a novel and more interesting technical interaction.  

OBJECTIVE

This proposal aims to change the whole basis of laboratory experimentation both to be more engaging to digitally literate students and to maximize the efficiency of limited resources as the university grows.

We propose to develop internet based remote laboratory experiments in order to: 

  • provide students the flexibility of executing experiments anytime and anywhere at TU/e.
  • provide instructors/groups with limited lab space the flexibility of accommodating larger number of students than physically possible in the lab rooms
  • provide instructors/groups flexibility to have access to lab setups in other departments/universities. 
  • provide techniques for remote control of the equipment

For demonstration purposes, we will make two specific experimental set-ups available outside the laboratory. 

The Control Systems Group at the EE Department owns a Three-Tank System that is mainly used in control relevant master courses, specifically 5SC26 Integration Course of Systems and Control Masters of which 45 students have enrolled this academic year. This is almost double the number of students (27) of last year. The system is used for identification, modeling, control, analysis and demonstrations. In addition, chemical engineering students in the course of Dynamics and Control of Processes 6E8X0 are given a project based on the data collected from this set up. It is not feasible for these students to perform the experiments themselves due to limited space in the lab. Recently, the group has acquired a distillation column. Extension of the environment to a distillation process works in the same fashion and is also foreseen in this proposal.

A representative sketch of the system overview for a three-tank system as a physical setup is shown in the following figure 1.

To allow web-based access this system needs to be extended with:

  • Interface Board: Maps the signals from the physical set-up to the signals in software environment.
  • Processor: Real time platform that runs the control strategy
  • Camera: Visualizes experiments
  • Server Application: Is required for the clients to log in to the system, send HTTP requests, queues the experiments. It also stores the measurement data.
  • Client Application: is the GUI where the clients can specify the experiments, observe the outcome of the experiments they run. 

Project ongoing