Modified LabVIEW VI to show camera feed

Successful Delivery of an Online Controls Lab at Mauá Institute of Technology

Arman Molki

Application Marketing Engineer | Quanser

Maua Logo

With over a decade of presence in Brazil, Quanser products are used by over 30 institutions in South America’s largest country. Like other universities around the world, Brazilian engineering schools had to find innovative ways to offer laboratory courses remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tasked to tackle the challenge, Prof. Hugo Bernardes and his colleagues at the Instituto Mauá de Tecnologia (IMT) located in São Paulo successfully deployed a control systems laboratory online using the Quanser QUBE-Servo 2.

Solution

The control systems laboratory at IMT’s electrical engineering department is equipped with ten QUBE-Servo 2 units. The QUBEs are primarily used as part of undergraduate control theory courses to study topics such as transfer functions, modeling, system stability, and advanced control techniques, in a hands-on and practical way.

With access to the campus restricted due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the department started to experiment with several methods to remotely access laboratory hardware. According to Prof. Bernardes, “It was also proposed to use cameras that could film and transmit everything that is happening in the system, such as tests and control of the servo motor.”

Eventually, Prof. Bernardes and his colleagues decided to implement a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to allow students remotely access the computers in the laboratory as shown below.

Schematic of the remote laboratory architecture
Schematic of the remote laboratory architecture

By modifying the standard LabVIEW® VIs supplied by Quanser as part of our QUBE curriculum, a video feed of the experimental setup was added to the VI’s front panel to give students the ability to see their experiment. During the lab sessions, which were held over Zoom, students and instructors were able to share their screens to jointly conduct and troubleshoot experiments.

Modified LabVIEW VI to show camera feed
Modified LabVIEW VI to show camera feed
Station setup
Actual station setup

Results

The team at IMT was able to successfully complete the semester-long laboratory course using the 10 QUBE-Servo 2 stations setup for remote access. This was an important achievement for Prof. Bernardes as it allowed him to offer the much-needed hands-on laboratory exercises that play a crucial role in theory-heavy courses such as control theory. Students taking the course had positive feedback as well. According to Felipe Lopes, a student of electronics engineering, “I believe using the Quanser QUBE-Servo 2 remotely was extremely beneficial for learning control systems, since experience and technical work are as important as theoretical classes. These tools helped in understanding the practical and applicable use of theory.” The team at IMT plans to produce additional remote labs for active learning using the QUBE-Servo 2. The instructional team is currently developing additional remote-based labs for their control systems course.

Are you offering remote hardware-based labs using Quanser technology? Would love to hear about your experience!

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Prof. Dr. Marcello Nitz and Prof. Hugo Bernardes for contributing to this blog post.