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Virtual Manufacturing Laboratory Experiences for Distance Learning Courses in Engineering Technology

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Engineering Technology Futuristic Planning

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1461.1 - 25.1461.12



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Paper Authors


Mert Bal Miami University

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Mert Bal received his Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus in 2008.
He was a postdoctoral Fellow in the University of Western Ontario and a Visiting Researcher at the National Research Council Canada, London, Ontario, Canada in 2008-2010. He has worked on several research projects in the areas of virtual reality, intelligent integrated manufacturing, and wireless sensor networks. He has authored or co-authored various journal and conference publications related to the applications of virtual reality in manufacturing and education, development of intelligent manufacturing control systems, and real-time localization in wireless sensor networks. Bal is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Miami University, Department of Engineering Technology, at the Hamilton campus. He teaches undergraduate courses in the areas of computerized instrumentation, electromechanical control, industrial automation, and computer-aided manufacturing.

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Virtual Manufacturing Laboratory Experiences for Distance Learning Courses in Engineering TechnologyAbstractIn the recent years, trends of the globalization have affected the higher education,resulting in an increasing flow of students seeking a new career in engineeringtechnology. Economic pressures on the universities and the emergence of newtechnologies have spurred the engineering technology programs to create newsystems in engineering technology education in order to afford the increaseddemand.The distance learning is one such a new system, which has recently become verypopular in order to deliver undergraduate engineering education to the learners atvarious distant geographic locations. However, given that the instructionallaboratories have been an essential part of engineering technology programs,delivery of the laboratory exercises to the distant learners is a problem demandingsolution.Several programs have implemented solutions for this problem including the labkits that contain small, inexpensive laboratory equipment that each student eitherpurchases one or given one by the university in order to do the labs at a distancelocation. These methods have been found very useful for delivering the labs of thecourses that do not require sophisticated lab equipment. However, it has been veryhard to conduct the distance laboratory experiments, which require bulky andcostly equipment such as industrial robots, trainers, test instruments,manufacturing machines etc. The engineering technology programs are in theneed of new technologies to adapt for distance laboratory instruction.The Virtual Reality (VR) is one such a technology with a great potential inundergraduate engineering education. The VR offers expandable environments inwhich the user has great possibilities of interaction. Its advantages, such as newpossibilities of interaction and more realistic and pleasant learning environmentsare turning VR into a valuable tool in distance education.This paper presents an application of the VR to improve engineering technologydistance learning courses in the areas of robotics and manufacturing systems.A case study has been performed in this program for the laboratory componentsof manufacturing and robotics-related distance courses by implementing thepreviously developed educational software package: VCIMLAB (VirtualComputer Integrated Manufacturing LAB).The VCIMLAB simulates a small-scale job-shop type flexible manufacturingsystem and its components using realistic 3-D graphics. The software systemallows the students to interactively control and monitor the virtual models ofindustrial robot arms and computer numerically controlled machines, generatesequences for material handling and manufacturing in virtual environment.The study has been performed in an undergraduate Engineering Technologyprogram at the Miami University in Hamilton, OH. The Miami University,Department of Engineering Technology currently has a number of distancelearning programs. The students across the state take distance engineeringtechnology courses from the main campus remotely via the Interactive VideoDistance Learning (IVDL) system.The results of the presented educational initiative have been assessed throughlaboratory reports, and questionnaires implemented with a tutorial monitoringapplication. The results of these experiments suggest that the engineering studentscan understand the operations and programming of the robotics andmanufacturing systems much better when advanced visualization tools are used.

Bal, M. (2012, June), Virtual Manufacturing Laboratory Experiences for Distance Learning Courses in Engineering Technology Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22218

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