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Using virtual laboratories in control engineering education

Some experiences

Author - Aidan O’Dwyer


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3 Outline of useful virtual laboratories

Over the past two academic years, the author has increasingly begun to use computer-based simulation laboratories available on the internet (simulation based virtual laboratories), in both the lecture and laboratory environment. The author has found virtual laboratories suitable for introductory undergraduate work (for example Crutchfiled and Rugh 1998; Forrester 1996; Garcia and Heck 1999; Merrick and Ponton 1996; Poindexter and Heck 1999; Wall n.d.; Yang and Lee 2003) and more advanced undergraduate and postgraduate work (for example Garcia and Heck 1999; Merrick and Ponton 1996; Poindexter and Heck 1999; Wall n.d.; Yang and Lee 2003). The author recommends in particular the work done by Messner and Tilbury (see Messner and Tilbury 1999 and Tilbury and Messner 1999), which will be used extensively in modules in automatic control in the final year of the honours B.E. programme in Electrical/Electronic Engineering. A recent trend is for textbooks to have an associated website, with interactive features; the work of Marlin 2000 and Goodwin et al. 2001 are particularly suitable for more advanced learners. Other interesting perspectives are also available (Aga and Cox 2004; BestTUNE; Blakley 1998; Dormido et al. 2005; Keller 2006; Kozura et al. 1996; Kroumov and Inoue 2001; Paja et al. 2005; Ringwood 1998; Yang 2002; Yu et al. 2004; Zhuang and Morgata 2007). A particularly interesting contribution on implementing a virtual laboratory on a mobile phone is given by Goh et al. 2005.

The development of other types of virtual laboratories, in which experiments may be performed remotely over the internet, has also been the focus of attention (Ahmed et al. 2004; Bhandari and Shor 1998; Bohus et al. 1996; Casini et al. 2003, 2004, 2005; Cheng et al. 2004; Diong et al. 2003; Duan et al. 2005; Fernández et al. 2005; Johansson et al. 1998; Ko et al. 2001, 2005; Koku and Kaynak 2001; Peek et al. 2005; Sánchez et al. 2004; Schmid 1998; Selmer et al. 2005; Shaheen et al. 1998; Srinivasagupta and Joseph 2003; Valera et al. 2005; Viedma et al. 2005); the maturing of this field is evidenced by the recent publication of an excellent ‘how-to’ book by Ko et al. 2004.

Finally, more general publications on the use of interactive and web-based learning in control engineering education are also of interest (see Castellanos 2005; Copinga et al. 2000; Hassapis 2003; Michau et al. 2001; Petridis et al. 2003; Tan 2005; Zywmo and Kennedy 1999).

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