A New Era in Engineering Education: Enriching the online education experience with Digital-Twins and Remote Labs

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In ACROME, we are working towards achieving the goal of more “accessible controls, mechatronics, and robotics education”. We are also witnessing the digital transformation of the traditional education systems under the umbrella of distance education. Two popular approaches are getting hot nowadays within the distance education ecosystem:

a) Simulations based on digital- or virtual-twins

b) Remote access to physical devices over the internet, aka Remote Labs

As a technology company, we are following and adopting these trends into our products and services, also thanks to the partnerships that we are forming. As in the below figure, the modern learning paradigm is re-shaping around distance education and putting more importance into self-learning and self-exploration to individuals with the aid of internet technology.

Figure-1

In this blog episode, we will be sharing some details on the tools and how we provide these new experiences to learners in the dawn of the new (technology) education era. We will start first with the digital-twin concept and how our products are being served to self-learners and provide a better simulation experience (both numerically and graphically). Then, we will touch on the topic of self-executing online real experiments and the transfer of theoretical information into practical usage. Finally, we will add some insights about combining all the technologies into a unified platform.

Digital-Twins: An Important Tool for Self-Learning in Distance Education

Digital-twin is a software technology that helps the development of real systems against the real-world’s data, which informs and alters the model before expensive and resource-hungry alterations or construction needs to take place. For example, by re-feeding actual operational data into the simulation framework, insights gathered do more than inform the developmental model.

Figure-2

In the digital-twin domain, researchers and students may iterate ideas on the physical changes and see their effect on the controllability of the system. Some examples are as below:

- What should be the constant x and y theta offsets to keep the ball in balance, say- if the center beam is not located at the center? There will be some misalignment for sure, but what will be its effect?

- What would happen if the motor arms are out-of-manufacturing tolerance and assume that the X-axis motor arm is longer by 1.8 mm. compared to the Y-axis motor?

- What about the effect of friction? How fast should we run the control loop to move the ball from left to right corner with P = 0.03 and I = 0.2 coefficients and with a tolerance of -+5 mm. and in less than 4 seconds?

The above questions are tough to answer with analytical or by coding any pure numerical analysis software. To answer these questions, sophisticated physical calculation engines are required. In collaboration with Altair, in ACROME we are actively working on developing the digital-twin of our mechatronic systems. The MotionSolve® is a good example of sophisticated physical analysis software developed by Altair Inc. It faithfully represents the true-world physical phenomenon and helps engineers solve such problems. MotionSolve is a CAE software performing 3D multi-body system simulations to predict the dynamic response and optimize the performance of products that move. Together with Altair’s Inspire ® software, users can experience an interactive engineering design environment for rapid design exploration and further performance analysis.


Figure-3 BBT and its digital-twin representing the physical world in harmony

To learn more about the digital-twin of BBT and how it works, please visit Altair’s article posted here. You may also get into contact with Altair or ACROME to book an online demonstration session now!

Remote-Labs: Access and use real hardware through the internet

As discussed in our previous blog about remote education, labs are also an important factor in engineering education. In labs, students can apply the knowledge that they have learned theoretically during online classes or presentations. This helps students gain some sort of experience with whatever they are doing by facilitating the learning process.

However, during the coronavirus pandemic, students have lost access to labs where they could comfortably put their knowledge into practice. That is one of the primary motivations that we have in ACROME to release our Remote Lab service.

Remote Lab is an online service where users can access ACROME’s experiment systems from all around the world through the internet via the remote.acrome.net website. This service lets people use the engineering software installed on their own local PC and remotely connect to the physical robotic and mechatronic education systems of ACROME to run their own algorithms in real-time and on the real hardware. There are plenty of documents and contents available on the Remote Lab website and interested readers may click the above link to read more and even book a free demo session to experience right away!

Figure-4

In our vision, distance education users will have more freedom to use and experience the technical education systems, thanks to the digital-twins for higher-fidelity simulations and also thanks to the Remote Labs for experiencing all the physical and system-level aspects. Also, we are aiming to integrate these technologies in comprehensive online education content, under a single platform. Register to our newsletter and stay tuned for the updates!

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Disclaimer:

Arduino is the trademark of Arduino AG and Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Matlab and Simulink are trademarks of The Mathworks Company. NI myRIO and LabVIEW are trademarks of National Instruments. Other product and company names listed are trademarks and trade names of their respective companies.

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