June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
11.1135.1 - 11.1135.11
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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