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Result-Oriented Engineering Capstone Designs to Aid Persons with Disabilities

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Capstone Design and Innovations in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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23.1043.1 - 23.1043.13



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Hanqi Zhuang Florida Atlantic University

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Oren Masory Florida Atlantic University

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Zvi S Roth

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AN UNDEGRADUATE LABORATORY FOR WEB-BASED INSTRUMENTATION AND CONTROL1 Hanqi Zhuang and Sal Morgera Department of Electrical Engineering Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL 33431 Session Number: 1526 Abstract The objectives of the project are to demonstrate that (a) it is practical and feasible tooffer engineering undergraduate students a course on Web-based Instrumentation andControl (WIC) that involves recent technological innovations; (b) the proposed coursecan be effectively conducted with two integrated components: classroom lecturing andhands-on practice through a remote setting; and (c) the course materials can also beoffered after modification to gifted high school students and thus be used as a vehicle toattract students to engineering disciplines. Since July 1, 2002 (the official starting date of the project), we have been activelyinvolved in developing the WIC laboratory. After the laboratory is set up, it will have 10workstations that are inter-connected via campus LAN. Each workstation will consist ofa PC, a data acquisition board and other instruments. A web server and a process serverwill run on every workstation. A number of web cameras will be installed in the lab.Students will be able to conduct WIC experiments and Internet users will be able tonavigate to the lab site to witness the progress of the laboratory development. We plan tooffer an undergraduate course on WIC in the coming summer semester. 1 The work has been partially funded by National Science Foundation under grant DUE-0127451.Introduction The rapid growth of the World Wide Web provides tremendous commercialopportunities. International Data Corporation has projected that 46 million Americanswill buy $54 billion worth of goods annually by 2002 using the Web. Morgan StanleyDean Witter estimates sales of anywhere between $21 billion to $115 billion annually by2005 [1]. While e-commerce is starting to take off at a rapid pace, network infrastructure is alsofollowing suit. In a recent issue of IEEE Spectrum [2], Dutta-Roy states that,“networking technologies start to invade the home to carry phone signals and TVprograms, link computers and peripherals, and tap into the Internet.” Figure 1 (nextpage) demonstrates a networked home. Household electronic devices such as lights,appliances, climate-control systems, and surveillance cameras are linked to the Internetthrough wire or wireless networks. It is predicted that Internet-connected home areanetworks will soon penetrate domestic life. In the public domain, Taylor and Dalton in [3] reported a project in which robotswere operated through the Internet to perform a function of a robotic tour guide. Therobot, Minerva’s user interface is replicated on the web page to allow web users tocontrol the location of the robot as well as the camera’s viewing angle (by the majorityrole). Due to the rapid growth in the Internet over the past decade, trained professionals inall aspects of Internet programming are in high demand. This is especially true for thosethat have expertise in developing systems of Control Over the Web (WIC). Materialsthat fit classroom teaching and lab experimentation for undergraduate students in thisarea are, on the other hand, very scarce. Figure 1 A conceptual home networking system (from [2]) The goal of this project is to prove the concept of offering an undergraduate coursewith a companion lab that teaches students to design and develop web tools for WIC.Recently, in one of the Siemens projects, remote feature controls of a telephone over theWeb have been made possible. The research experience gained in industry has helpedthe PI to conceive the idea of developing the proposed course and the companion lab.The following objectives will be pursued: Demonstrate that it is practical and feasible to offer engineering undergraduate students a course that involves recent technological innovations, WIC. Demonstrate that the proposed course can be effectively conducted with two integrated components: classroom lecturing and hands-on practice through a remote setting. Demonstrate that the course materials can also be offered to gifted high school students and be used as a vehicle to attract students to engineering disciplines. Disseminate the project findings through conference presentations and scholarly publications, and further through preparation of a textbook based on the lecture notes and lab materials.B. Detailed Project PlanB.1 Sketch of Web-based Instrumentation and Control Web Server Customer LAN/WAN Client Corporate LAN Process Server 73400 73401 73402 73403 Figure 2 A typical web-based application (note that the numbers are extensions)The Internet can be used as the infrastructure for industrial applications. A Web-basedapplication (an example is illustrated in Figure 2) normally has the following elements: A computer that serves as a web server, where the HTML and scripting programs reside. A computer that serves as a process server, where the programs that compute business logic reside. It connects to the web server on one side and process hardware on the other. The web server and the process server sometimes can be a single computer or two separate computers. Process hardware that gets the job done at the remote side (shown in Figure 2 as phone sets; control cards inside the Process Server are not shown). Client computers with which users access a web site. They are connected to the web server through either the Internet or a corporate intranet.We will discuss the feasibility of training an engineering student to be prepared fordesign and implementation of web-based commercial/industrial applications bypresenting the curriculum development plan in the next section.B.2 Development planA course with a lab will be developed in the project. The course has three credits, withtwo for lecture and one for lab experimentation. The lab portion of the course consists ofseven experiments and a project. Each experiment requires approximately two weeks oflab time. Students need to do some preparation before the lab and write a report upon thecompletion of the lab.In terms of the lecture material, the course will address the following issues:  HTML  Web Programming Environment  Scripting and Other Web Programming Languages  Security and Fault Tolerance  Case StudiesThe following considerations are given in the preparation of the course/lab developmentplan: The courses/lab will be multidisciplinary in nature. In order to develop a web-based industrial application, students will need to master relevant knowledge from various engineering disciplines. More specifically, students will need to understand the interactions among client computers, web servers, process servers, and process plants. They will be required to implement software components that perform specific engineering tasks. Further, issues that are unique for web-based applications will be addressed in depth. These include unpredictable time delay, security, and fault tolerance required for a reliable system over the Web. The materials offered in the lectures will be platform independent, while in the lab, students will practice on a particular realization of the concepts taught in the classroom. Using materials that are platform independent will prepare the students to be more versatile and, thus, more competitive in the job market. On the other hand, in a university, we have to make a choice among various development environments in order to establish a lab that provides excellent educational tools with an affordable means. Most of the process-related labs and projects will be open-ended, encouraging students to find more effective solutions. For instance, there are many important issues involved in applications. These issues cannot be possibly solved in the course. However, any attempt by students to attack some of the issues will be promoted in the class. The lectures and labs will be highly correlated, to reinforce concepts students have learned in the classroom. This will be critical to student learning as the lab is a companion part of the course. Experiments will be arranged in a sequential order. This way, students will apply what they have learned to the later experiments. The lab will promote both individuality and team spirit. The experiments designed in the courses will enhance the student’s ability to solve problems independently, while the term projects will promote a spirit of teamwork. To achieve this, we will require that students perform lab experiments individually and term projects with groups. The lab will provide remote accessing capability. Students will be able to complete most of the assignments at home with a computer, while achieving the objective of testing their implementation using devices in the lab. This will be feasible because most of the web project development tools now allow developers to work on a project in either the master mode or the local mode. In the master mode, students must work on the web server computer. On the other hand, in the local mode, the students can work on any computer that has a network connection and a simplified development environment. A significant portion of the labs outlined later of this section can be conducted in the local mode. This will stretch the boundary of the lab beyond the university campus.The lab consists of six experiments and a project that is chosen by the students. Theexperiments and projects focus on essential aspects of web-based e-commerceapplications such as three-tier architecture, object oriented programming, client side andserver side scripting, database management, and realization of business logic withplatform independent components. More specifically, the following experiments/projectsare planned:1. HTML and GUI. In this experiment, the student will learn to write an HTML page.The page will be decorated with graphics/image files such as logos and photos of thelaboratory. From the page, one shall be able to fetch documents, such as lab instructions,and navigate to other locations with ease. In the process, the student will get familiarwith the programming environment. This is a very simple experiment, yet it can be open-ended. After the student fulfils the basic requirements of the lab, he/she can add favoritesto the page either during the lab or later.2. Server Side Programming Using Scripting Language. The student will learn thethree-tier concept, Web-GUI Interface, and Business Logic in this and later experiments.A script language is usually both event driven and interpreted programming language. Itis embedded within a HTML code that generates web pages. He/she will first writeserver side routines using a script language of the choice, for instance VB Script. Objectcomponents completed in the previous experiments are to be called upon by the webpage. These components are written to perform certain tasks such as gather data from theserver side and report the result to the user in the client side.3. Client Side Programming Using Scripting Language. In this experiment, the studentwill learn to write the client side routines with Java script. These routines gatherinformation from the client and submit the information to the server. A typical exampleis to handle various events upon the user’s action. From this and the previousexperiments, the student will understand the difference between the scriptingprogramming in the server side and in the client side. The student will be asked topartition a given job to the two sides in terms of feasibility, efficiency, reliability andcomplexity of the system.4. Visual Basic (I). Visual Basic, as a powerful yet easy to learn programminglanguage, is widely used by engineers and others. In the labs, Visual Basic is mainlyused to write software components for specific tasks. It will be used extensively in theentire course sequence. Due to the importance of this tool, in this and the nextexperiment, the student will study basics of Visual Basic programming.In this experiment, the student will learn to program a procedure for a typical computingproblem, for example, sorting student names. Specific tasks requested by the user will beentered and execution results will be presented both through the GUI. An individualsubroutine/function is used to handle each task. For instance, routines are written to fetchand save data from/to a file. Later in another experiment, database techniques will beintroduced to provide the student with an alternate means for data management.5. Visual Basic (II). In this experiment, the student will practice the concept of objectoriented programming through writing simple object components using VB.Subroutines/functions completed in the previous experiment are to be changed to memberfunctions that belong to certain classes. These components are to be called upon byprograms written in other computers to complete specific tasks. Upon the completion ofthe experiment, the student will be able to partition a small (engineering) undertaking intosubtasks, define proper interfaces, and carry out efficient implementations. He/she willobserve that in partitioning a given task, there is no unique solution to most engineeringproblems.6. A Robot Control System. An instrumented camera is an essential component for aRemote Robot Control System. We will purchase a turnkey system equipped with aninstrumented surveillance camera. A motion control card will be used to handle thecommunication between the computer and a Lego robot. Owing to its simplicity inmotion control, the student will be able to concentrate on studying core techniques of thesubject. In this experiment, students will learn to devise a control strategy for moving therobot locally by using a simple algorithm. The student will design a GUI so thatparameters of the controller can be set through the GUI. The parameters will then be sentto a software component that, in turn, will compute a control law to drive the robot toreach the desired location.7. A Robot Control System Over the Web. Once the robot is properly controlled locally,the entire routine developed for the system will be ready to be moved to the Web. Due toa potentially long time delay over the Web, any attempt to directly control the robot maylead to instability. Thus, a strategy is to let the remote user only specify the motiontrajectory in the Cartesian space. A local controller will then map the trajectory from theCartesian space to the space defined by the motor angles. In addition, the student needsto properly interface the robot with the process server. The web camera will then sendimage sequences of its environment to the remote user, providing visual feedback to theuser.The last experiment will lead to a number of open-ended projects, such as investigationof time delay, fault tolerance, and security issues in a web application [5-8].B.3 Equipment neededThe following equipment is needed to develop the lab/course  Computers with network cards 10 sets  MS Visual Studio 10 licenses (free)  MS Office 10 licenses (free)  Data acquisition and control cards 10 sets  Lego robots 10 sets  Web cameras bundle 10 sets  Network printer 1 setTo train students in web application development, we interconnect all the stationsthrough a local area network. Students can conveniently test their work with a set ofnetwork computers. A typical scenario is that a student develops a web project, includingthe software component that realizes business logic on one computer. He/she theninstalls the process component in another computer, which has necessary hardware forbusiness related processing. Finally, he/she launches the web browser from yet anothercomputer, as shown in Figure 2.We expect that the class will be popular among students. We intend also to offer asummer dual-enrollment course for both undergraduate and gifted high school students.To let all students gain hands-on experience, we think that ten stations are needed.As to the choice of development environment, MS Visual Studio (free educationallicenses) is a comprehensive programming tool, which, among other things, comes withPersonal Web Server and Visual Basic. With Internet Information Server (comes withWindow 2000), students can simulate their implementation in a realistic environment.Visual Basic is a very popular language among engineers. Once mastering these andother tools used in the course sequence, the students can be extremely marketable.MS Office (free educational licenses) comes with MS Access and MS Word. MS Accessis to be used for database implementation. It is an economical and adequate tool for theexperiments conducted in the course sequence.Motion control cards and network cameras will be used in the real-world experiments andterm projects. We plan to purchase a number of turnkey systems as processes. Forinstance, web cameras made by InetCom include a complete turnkey system of videotransmission that is ideally suited for the laboratory.We select Lego robots as the control targets due partly to its functionality and popularityamong engineering students and partly to its low cost. Lego robots are especially helpfulto designing term and senior design projects on the subject of WIC. Students can focuson issues important to WIC such as supervised control under large time delay.B.4 Institutional supportConstruction of instructional laboratories with modern scientific equipment has always beengiven top priority at the college. The robotics laboratory occupies 2000 plus sq. ft. If theproposal is funded, the University will provide matching funds (see the budget sheets). TheEE Department will provide 25% release time for the faculty to develop the program.B.5 Students benefitedApproximately 40 students will be enrolled in each offering. Another 30 students fromhigh school will be expected to attend the planned summer course. Thus approximately110 students a year will benefit directly from this course. In addition, a number ofstudents from Senior Project Design will use the facility to conduct closely relatedprojects. Students taking Introduction to Engineering will be exposed to the lab throughdemonstration and simple web page programming. This lab will also be accessible by awide audience through the Web.C. Faculty ExpertiseDr. Hanqi Zhuang has taught numerous undergraduate courses and devised experimentsin the areas of machine vision, robotics, and controls. He conducts research in computervision, controls/robotics, manufacturing systems, and web instrumentation. His recentresearch activities include conducting a project with Motorola Manufacturing SystemsDivision on controlling robotics with an object oriented programming approach, andparticipating in two other projects with Siemens Information and CommunicationNetworks Division on remote management of a teleworking system and control of phonestation features over the Web. Dr. Zhuang will be the PI of the project, responsible fordeveloping the course and experiments.Dr. Salvatore Morgera has participated in a number of major R&D initiatives includingan Interactive Digital Video Transmission and Distribution Infrastructure, InformationTechnology and Engineering Laboratory, and World Wireless Web (www) in hiscapacity as a Special Assistant to the President of the of the Communications ResearchCenter, Industry Canada. He is an expert in IP-QoS and wireless networks. Dr. Morgerawill be the Co-PI of the project, responsible for networking aspects of the labdevelopment. In addition, he will solicit university and industrial supports, andimplement the evaluation and dissemination plan of the project.D. Evaluation and Dissemination PlanD.1 Evaluation planIf funded, we will complete the acquisition of the necessary equipment within threemonths. We plan to offer the lab-oriented web development course in Spring 2002. Toensure that the program be successful, we propose the following evaluation plan: We intend to invite a representative from the department industrial advisory board and a faculty member from the college to evaluate the project. At the beginning of the project, we will design a list of evaluation questions and will refine it during the project. The questions will be related to both the project’s implementation and its success/failure in terms of the objectives of the project. Part of the evaluation questions will be distributed to students in the middle semester of each term and part will be distributed at the end of each offering. Relevant questions will be also presented to the evaluators. Data will be statistically analyzed and tabulated. At the end of each year, with the help of the evaluator, we will critically judge the progress of the course by monitoring the enrollment, students’ enthusiasm and responses, impact on other courses, etc. Based on the input of students and colleagues, appropriate measures will be taken to implement the improvements. In addition, Peer evaluations of the lab program by colleagues from other regional and national universities will be conducted during their visit to our campus for various professional activities. Such activities will enhance our program as well as our national visibility.D.2 Dissemination planOur dissemination plan has the following components: Putting representative term projects on the Web. An important component of the course sequence is to encourage students to conduct innovative term projects. Samples of these projects will be accessible to Internet users. Providing the capability of remote accessing of the lab facility by the students, in addition to offering dual-enrollment courses to gifted high school students. FAU is an urban university having a large population of part time students living many miles away from the campus. We predict that remote accessing of the labs will be extremely welcome by these students. Offering WIC as a dual-enrollment course will serve a vehicle for attracting them to various engineering disciplines. Serving minority and woman students. During the past year, the department had an enrollment of about 400 upper division undergraduates. The student body contained 25% Hispanic, 24% African Americans and 20% female. Department policy encourages minorities to seek engineering careers and their participation is actively solicited. As an integrated part of the department, the proposed lab will serve undergraduate students in general, and minority students in particular, to prepare them to solve real-world problems. Disseminating the experience gained in developing the lab through scholarly publications and presentations. We plan to communicate the project results by submitting papers to relevant journals of IEEE and Engineering Education. We anticipate active participation in workshops held by NSF and other organizations to share our experiences. We also plan to write a textbook on WIC. Preparing to submit to NSF a full-scale CCLI-EMD proposal. As a follow-up, we will submit to the National Science Foundation a full-scale CCLI-EMD proposal to promote and test the practice in other institutes and with diverse student population.References1. Ten Questions on E-Commerce, Cnet Builder.com2. Amitava Dutta-Roy, “Networks for Homes,” IEEE Spectrum, December 1999, pp. 26 – 39.3. Kenneth Taylor and Barney Dalton, “Internet Robots: A New Robotics Niche,” IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2000, pp. 27 – 34.4. Dirk Schulz, Wolfrom Burgard, Dieter Fox, Senastian Thrun, and Armin B. Cremers, “Web Interfaces for Mobile Robots in Public Places,” IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2000, pp. 48 – 55.5. Warwick Ford and Michael Baum, Secure Electronic Commerce, Prentice Hall, 1997.6. Paul Richard May, The Business of E-Commerce: From Corporate Strategy to Technology. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.7. Jalal Feghhi, Peter Williams, Jalil Feghhi, Digital Certificates : Applied Internet Security , Addison-Wesley Pub Co, 1998

Zhuang, H., & Masory, O., & Roth, Z. S. (2013, June), Result-Oriented Engineering Capstone Designs to Aid Persons with Disabilities Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22428

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