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Software Architectures For Remotely Operable Civil Engineering Laboratories

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Virtual and Distance Experiments

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1135.1 - 11.1135.11



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Paper Authors


Prakash Kripakaran North Carolina State University

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Prakash Kripakaran is a post-doctoral researcher in the applied computing and mechanics laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland. His research interests lie broadly in the area of computing technologies and their applications to civil engineering. He is specifically interested in design optimization and decision support for structural engineering.

He was formally a doctoral student in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering specializing in computer aided engineering.

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Abhinav Gupta North Carolina State University

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Associate Professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering

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Vernon Matzen North Carolina State University

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Alumni Distinguished Professor for Undergraduate Education, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering; Director of the Center for Nuclear Power Plant Structures, Equipment and Piping

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Software Architectures For Remotely Operable Civil Engineering Laboratories Abstract

Educators have successfully adapted many classroom courses to distance education environments via the internet and are now attempting to extend this success to laboratory courses by allowing students to remotely control and observe various experiments. A key task that arises in this process of modifying the experiments in traditional laboratories for internet-enabled control and observation is the development of a secure computational framework that uses web technologies and computer networking concepts to communicate information between the computers of the laboratory and the remote user. This framework that enables internet access to the experiment must address two main issues : (1) protection for the computers that directly operate the experiment from malignant users on the internet, and (2) portability of the framework to other experiments. In this paper, we propose a framework that addresses these concerns and illustrate it for a shaketable experiment. The framework is designed to act as an intermediary between client and server applications that are developed for data acquisition and control. The key component of the framework is a proxy server. It controls access to the computers that perform data acquisition and control. A webserver that is hosted on the proxy server serves webpages related to the experiment. The webserver has user-based authentication protocols to authenticate users attempting to access the webpages. The webserver uses a combination of perl scripts and linux networking tools to setup access to the experiment for the remote user and later, disable access for the remote user when the allotted timeslot expires.


In recent years, universities have witnessed a greater number of students enrolling in distance-education classes. But as the existing computing technologies are primarily designed for video-based lectures, rarely are laboratory experiments included in these classes. Laboratory experiments can be vital for students in visualizing various engineering concepts. For instance, remotely controlling a shaketable experiment may help students gain a better understanding of vibration phenomena like resonance. There have been some suggestions to use simulations in the classes to achieve the same goal. However, researchers 1 have pointed out that “There will always be an important place for simulation systems, but they cannot completely substitute for experience with actual systems.” For instance, simulations do not provide any insight into calibration of measuring instruments such as pressure gages and LVDT’s, or into behavioral uncertainties.

Several educators have proposed solutions for creating internet-enabled experiments 1,2,3,4,5 . However, these solutions fail to address the key issues of security and portability. Since the experiments are accessed via the internet, the framework has to include sufficient security protocols to ensure that only authorized users are allowed to access the experiment. Moreover, the existing solutions are primarily designed to work for the specific experiment and are often difficult to extend to other laboratory experiments. For portability, it is essential that the framework consists of components with little inter-dependency. In particular, it must decouple the experiment-specific components from the components for web security, internet access, and

Kripakaran, P., & Gupta, A., & Matzen, V. (2006, June), Software Architectures For Remotely Operable Civil Engineering Laboratories Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1131

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