June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.175.1 - 11.175.12
An Architecture for Virtual Laboratory Experimentation
Abstract This paper presents a software architecture for the rapid development of virtual laboratories that support a flexible online collaborative learning environment. The experimentation system integrates Java, Python and Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) to provide multiple users with virtual laboratories over the Internet.
The system architecture is modular and can be easily extended to implement different experiments. Most of the system components are implemented as Java applets that can be run on commonly available Web browsers in an interactive way, thus minimizing the network overhead. The proposed approach and environment have been implemented and are currently tested in different experiments such as a mechanical vibration system, a muffler system, a liquid level control system and beam deflection system. This environment provides the students with the possibility to learn in a flexible way, i.e. they can follow different learning modalities to perform experiments from remote locations using the Web browser. This paper will summarize specific outcomes and provide sample screenshots at key stages of a representative experiment – the classical strength-of-materials problem of determining the deflections and stress concentrations of a cantilever beam of linear elastic material with stress raisers.
Index Terms: Laboratory education; Internet; on-line experiment; Web-based laboratory; virtual laboratory; virtual experiment; virtual reality; VRML.
The fast development of computer systems along with the spreading Internet connectivity have opened the door for flexible delivery of engineering education and for providing students with a very rich source of educational material. Many educational institutions have implemented virtual and remote laboratories as an Internet-based learning environment to support flexible engineering education curricula. Gillet et al.1,2,3,4 described the collaboration between the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, and The University of Florida in Gainesville, USA, to develop and share Web-based experimentation resources. Their environment integrates all the components necessary to carry out hands-on practice in a flexible learning context. It has the capability to reach more students by enabling them to access the experimental devices from remote locations at anytime via the Internet. At Purdue University, a virtual laboratory called SoftLab has been developed to provide an environment for both physical experiments and numerical simulations5. Web-based experimentation is becoming an increasingly attractive way in the deployment of e-Learning solutions and the modality of choice for enhancing the laboratory experience. It can include virtual (i.e. simulation-based) and remote (i.e. hardware-based) laboratory resources.
Simulation-based virtual laboratories have become the leading solution to provide for the needs of the e-Learning community. They represent a valuable option in academic laboratories due to their advantages: inexpensive operation and no time and physical restrictions. They also provide a safe learning environment for experimentation with dangerous equipment6. If the virtual reality
Aziz, E., & Esche, S., & Chassapis, C. (2006, June), An Architecture For Virtual Laboratory Experimentation Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--220
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