FACHHOCHSCHULE D'AALEN: virtual robotics laboratory. Name of the agency Fachhochschule d'aalen (Aalen Higher Technical Institute).

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1 FACHHOCHSCHULE D'AALEN: virtual robotics laboratory I- TRAINING AGENCY Name of the agency Fachhochschule d'aalen (Aalen Higher Technical Institute). Postal address Beethovenstrasse, 1 D Aalen Germany Electronic address Website: Tel.: Fax: Legal status of the training agency State college of further education. II- TRAINING ACTION Title of the action The Virtual and remote robotics laboratory (Virtuelles und telemanipulierbares Roboterlaboratorium) is one of ten sub-projects (Teilprojekt 1) developed as part of the programme entitled Virtual laboratory network (Verbund Virtuelles Labor, VVL). The VVL, thus formed from the ten virtual laboratory sub-projects and dedicated to training engineers, is itself one of the six Baden-Wurttemberg virtual technical college (Virtuelle Hochschule Baden-Wurttemberg) programmes. Validation Only a small portion of the engineering studies offered by the Aalen Higher Technical Institute are taught via the Internet. So e-learning is not yet subject to any special accreditation but is included in the overall accreditation of the engineering programme.

2 Main outlets The engineering programme, including an Internet learning part, leads to jobs in automated production and robotics. Name and function of project manager: Dietmar Schmid, project manager. Start-up date Experiments began in June Partners in the project (educational and technical): - the VVL programme partners: the Reutlingen, Ravensburg-Weingarten, Konstanz and Heilbronn Higher Technical Colleges and Tubingen University; - other universities in Europe and the USA, for exchanging information and practices on technical and educational aspects. Project funding The German government is funding the project. III- CONDITIONS OF ACCEPTANCE AND TARGET GROUP Target group: Student engineers at the Aalen Higher Technical College. Contacts have also been made with companies since mid-1999, for the life-long training of employees. Number of students per session Trainers ask students in their classes to conduct experiments via the Internet (in the virtual robotics laboratory), in small groups or individually. Diploma or level required Participants have to be in the Aalen Higher Technical College engineering programme and must have started the course. Work experience required: none. Profiles of employers of student engineers: Any company in the mechanical industry sector. IV- TRAINING PROGRAMME AND COURSE CONTENTS Educational objectives The purpose of creating the virtual robotics laboratory is to enable students to conduct experiments via the Internet on operating a sophisticated and extremely

3 costly industrial robot. Introducing the Internet as an interface in operating a robot limits the risk of damage to people and to the machine (see below, using the control panels). Use of the robot is also accessible to teachers and students at other higher technical colleges. So this type of virtual laboratory enables resources to be exchanged between different colleges. Contents The subject taught by means of the laboratory is robotics. Four types of experiment are possible and represent four industrial performance tests: - ISO 9283 absolute accuracy; - ISO 9283 accuracy of linearity; - ISO 9283 accuracy of dynamic behaviour; - control by sensors. Circulation of contents over the Internet - Summarised and detailed presentations of theoretical contributions relative to each experiment are available on the Internet through HTML pages including examples, exercises and interactive animations. Simulations of the operation of the robot are also offered through the VRML (virtual reality modelling language) application. - is used for communication between participants and with the tutor as well as video-conferencing which works with a web cam (camera used for web viewing), a headphone and virtual white-board. - Remote experiments on operating and controlling the robot are performed via the Internet. Thus, from a connected workstation, a student engineer is able to handle the robot and perform the experiments required, by means of a control panel that is viewed on a web page, in a special window. The control panel on the Internet replicates the robot s real control panel except that it becomes possible, by locking them, to bar specific functions that could, in a non virtual context, cause damage to people or to the machine in the event of mishandling by people being trained who are not yet familiar with all functions. A remote control device via the Internet, which supposes a special battery of programs and a PC enabling a robot to be run and controlled remotely, allows students to view the results of their handling by means of three video screens on the web. The screens are connected to video cameras which film the robot in the room where it is actually installed. One of the three cameras gives an overview of the action and the other two are controllable remotely by the student via the PC monitor. It is thus possible for users to control camera zoom and angles in all four directions. During trials conducted on the robot on-line, students are able to take thousands of measurements, store them in ASCII files and then export them to the Excel program to process them and present them in graph from.

4 During the experiments, students communicate with tutors by video link, , phone, "chat" or face-to-face. Currently, preparation of the English version of the site and content is under way. At present, they are available in German. TEACHING METHODS AND TOOLS Course organisation E-learning is combined with periods of face-to-face teaching that represent the major part of the engineering programme. The length of e-learning periods depends on students level and their success with the experiments. A quick learner will need two or three hours for each virtual experiment. Course staff Teachers belong to the Aalen Higher Technical College. Teaching aids and resources made available to students Apart from resources made available on the Internet, which can be downloaded and printed out, students have the benefit of materials traditionally used in the engineering programmes at the Aalen Higher Technical College (books, etc.). The results obtained by students with each experiment are also recorded and can provide a view of individual competence. Currently, the Aalen Higher Technical College is taking part in preparing a database for the whole of the Virtuelle Hochschule Baden-Wurttemberg project. Assessment methods used at the end of the e-learning course Multiple choice questionnaires (MCQs) are put in the experiment set up part. Questions are also asked in exercises. Lastly, an HTML page report is posted by the students on their web sites and they inform the teacher by . Teachers will refer to the page as a base in assessment. VI- ORGANISATION Total duration of the course in hours: Six terms including two in-company. So the experiments on the Internet only represent a small part of the course. Scheduling Experiments on the Internet are available every day of the year. There is only a single limitation: the scheme does not accept simultaneous remote use of the robot by several students, so only one connection is possible at a time. Timetabling Timetables are chosen by students. The rate at which sessions take place is customised.

5 VII- TECHNICAL BACK-UP Characteristics of the equipment used by students - the Internet with a 56 Kbps connection; - Netscape, above version 4.5 and Microsoft Excel; - videoconference with peripherals consisting of a camera and a PC, optionally. Cost of the acquisition of the equipment and payment The cost is borne by the Aalen Higher Technical College, or by the student for equipment at home. Places where the equipment is available: - at students homes if their equipment is adequate; - at the higher technical college; - or throughout the world with suitable equipment. Characteristics of the network used for teaching purposes: - the Internet, which was chosen for the opportunities it provides, as against a CD- Rom, as regards synchronous interactivity; - high speed lines (over 256 Kbps) to get high transmission speeds. For example, only one second separates the transmission of a web cam picture from its reception; - the robot with its control unit; - five web servers; - a database server; - web cams... For tutors, following the experiments performed by students, trainers use chat, e- mail or videoconference. Cost of implementing this teaching system: 400,000 Deutschmarks for three years, not counting the robot. Connection security: The name of the user and a password are used. VIII- IMPORTANCE FOR THE TRAINING AGENCY What changes (innovations) does the use of the Internet introduce into agency practices (technical, educational, managerial etc.)? Changes resulting from using the Internet are as follows: the switch from an onsite (technical) laboratory to a remote laboratory; so work on the VVL network is done externally, without travel, without booking or preparation of the laboratory. These changes enable the attraction of the teaching and research to be maintained and improved.

6 Why were these innovations introduced? The innovations were introduced to provide students with a modern education, suited to the latest scientific knowledge. They enable multiple use, 24 hours a day, of laboratory equipment and so allow it to be used more fully. For the promoting body and its partners, what are the main aspects, advantages and benefits of the development of this type of training over the Internet? To arrange for users to be able to benefit from the educational material available by making the laboratories permanently accessible. What are the obstacles to the development of this type of learning over the Internet? In our case, shortage of staff is the main obstacle to development. What are the factors for successful e-learning? Publicity, improving teaching and the possibility of interdisciplinary working. What is the added value of Internet use? From the technical point of view, the Internet makes access to the laboratory and to teaching material possible 24 hours a day. From the educational point of view: - multimedia offers a wide range of teaching material; - with methodical preparation and multimedia presentation, the content of the course can be presented very enjoyably and to great advantage; - an on-line demonstration can be used as part of a lecture; - an option available to students to perform experiments irrespective of place or time; - an opportunity to conduct experiments without risk either to students or to the robot; - an option of varying experiments depending on the user; - teaching material becomes transparent for all users through incorporation into the teaching programmes. What are the limits? In particular, it is hard to anticipate all situations for help to users in their use of technical laboratories and teaching material. Is the use of the Internet financially viable? VVL is a research project that is not being conducted in a commercial and profitability costing perspective. What lessons can be learnt from this experience? How could it be transferred on a national and/or European level? National, European and international transfer and multiple uses in neighbouring fields are goals necessary to the project (see Importance for ).

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