June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.97.1 - 14.97.9
A REMOTE- ACCESS ROBOTICS AND PLC LABORATORY FOR DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAM
This paper describes an internet-based remote control automation laboratory which includes a robot and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) unit developed at Elizabeth City State University (ECSU). The laboratory was designed in response to emerging internet – based technology in industries and educational application. Most engineering and technology courses are laboratory intensive and have been considered impractical for distance education. Furthermore, it has been determined that the laboratory requirement is a major obstacle facing non-traditional students desiring to pursue online degrees in engineering and technical disciplines. Offering internet based laboratories may eliminate this obstacle for distance learning program students. This concept is of particular interest in countries with large distances between major educational centers and those with limited budgets and facilities.
This paper illustrates a general architecture of an online laboratory. A Local Area Network (LAN) based “Host Computer” is set up in the laboratory and is connected to a robot, a PLC unit and a networked camera (Webcam). They are accessed and controlled via a remote computer through a secure “Virtual Private Network” (VPN) connection to the campus LAN.
This paper examines a concept of establishing a remote control laboratory. This laboratory is designed to increase the technical skills and knowledge of a large number of diverse undergraduate students in the area of PLC usage and robotics. Also it promotes the use of remote control laboratory and maximizes utilization of equipment and facilities.
Online enrollment in higher education classes has been increasing at a substantially higher rate than overall enrollment for several years. More than 3.5 million students took at least one online class in 2006 an increase of almost 10% from the previous year1. However, the teaching of technical disciplines often requires the use of costly laboratory materials which are frequently beyond the reach of some universities. Particularly, under developed countries, with insufficient budgets have the major challenge of absorbing the cost of remaining competitive in the critical technical field in order to train students to meet the future demand for skilled personnel in the workplace. In addition, in a traditional laboratory students are required to go to laboratory facilities according to a strict timetable. Consequently, in the interest of meeting the needs of students who desire greater accessibility to learning resources and the freedom to organize their learning activities, many colleges and universities are working toward the establishment of flexible laboratories. For these reasons, the need for virtual and remote laboratories via the internet arises for teaching distance learning courses. The online laboratory is a key aspect of distance learning in engineering and technology programs. The advance of internet technology tools developed in the1990’s has made it possible to access a facility or laboratory at distance. For example, some universities have changed traditional laboratory to the virtual one that take place in a traditional laboratory where some students can use the local lab workbenches and
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