Dr. Jiang started developing the courses, aligning the teaching style with the learning style of his students, the ‘digital natives’. Using Learning Glass technology, he prepared a set of review videos covering the prerequisite knowledge, as well as videos explaining the course topics. A telepresence robot turned his office hours into virtual meetings, saving commuting time to students.
The true game-changer came with implementing qdex, a unique STEM-focused mobile eLearning platform developed by Quanser. qdex allowed Dr. Jiang to transform conventional static learning materials into highly interactive educational modules accessible on smart mobile devices.
Dr. Jiang’s team of qdex developers consisted mostly of students with no previous coding, programming, or app development experience. However, after a short learning period, and using the rich library of Quanser-developed templates, they were able to create qdex modules covering bending, stress, torsion, and other advanced concepts.
Each qdex module included a study content with a review of the theory. To practice the concepts, students could use high-fidelity, interactive simulations with real-time responses. The ‘common concept map’ connected all the qdex modules, helping students to visualize relations between the concepts.
Practical Experimentation via Internet
Next, the team focused on reinforcing the theory with practical experimentation. Dr. Jiang’s lab already had two Quanser Shake Tables II, a de-facto standard academic platform for studying effects of ground excitation on materials and structures. But with the high enrollment in the courses and the limited lab time, it would be impossible to provide any meaningful hands-on experience to all the students.
Dr. Jiang had a previous experience with operating a Shake Table remotely. In an earlier effort to enhance earthquake engineering education, the University Consortium on Instructional Shake Tables (UCIST) partnered with the George E. Brown Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES to develop a framework for remote participation and operation of the Shake Table II via the internet. Although the Remote Shake Table Lab (RSTLab) showed a great potential, over the years, the technological changes made the original concept obsolete. Dr. Jiang decided to resurrect the idea. He adopted the standard TCP/IP communication protocol and updated the RSTLab components. That resulted in a much easier setup process, moreover, enabled a connection to the Shake Table II through modern smart devices, from tablets to smartphones and, potentially, even wearable devices.
Mobile Remote Lab Meets qdex
The new Mobile RSTLab (mRSTLab) took full advantage of qdex capabilities. The SFSU team developed a module that allowed students to control the shake table remotely from their smart devices and receive sensor measurements in real time. The remote access to the Shake Table platform was first tested in the Mechanical and Structural Vibrations course. Students booked their lab session during which they got a full control of the Shake Table in the lab. Through the qdex module installed on their phones or tablets, they simply selected the desired input signal – sine wave, sine sweep or an earthquake input, and customized its value using sliders or toggles. The Shake Table test structure accelerometers measured their responses to the excitation and sent them automatically to the smart devices, so students could view the data in real time.
Simultaneously, students could also access and control a mobile robot in the lab. They could move the robot around the Shake Table setup to observe the experiment from different angles and to communicate with the lab assistant. The robot gave students a sense of presence and participation, and made the remote experiment feel hands-on and engaging.