This paper describes an Internet based remote experimental setup of a double lined pendulum mechanism for students experiments at the M. Sc. Level. Some of the first year experience using this web-based setup in classes is referred.
In most of the courses given at the division of mechanical engineering systems at Linkoeping Institute of Technology we provide experimental setups to enhance the teaching Of M.Sc. students. Many of these experimental setups involve mechatronical systems. Disciplines like fluid power, electronics, and mechanics and also software technologies are used in each experiment. As our campus has recently been split into two different cities some new concepts for distance learning have been studied. The one described here tries to implement remotely controlled mechatronic setups for teaching basic programming of real-time operating systems and analysis of the dynamics of mechanical systems. The students control the regulators for the pendulum through a web interface and get measurement results and a movie back through their email.
The present setup uses a double linked pendulum that is controlled by a DC-motor and monitored through both camera and angular position sensors. All software needed is hosted on a double-processor PC running the RedHat 7.1. distribution complemented with real-time scheduling using DIAPM-RTAI 1.7. The Internet site is presented to the students using PHP, Apache and MySQL. All of the used software originates from the open source domain. The experience from integrating these technologies and security issues is discussed together with the web-camera interface. One of the important experiences from this project so far is the need for a good visual feedback. This is both in terms of video speed but also in resolution. It has been noticed that when the students makes misstates and wants to search the failure they want clear, large images with high resolution to support their personal believes in the cause of the failure. Even if the student does not need a high resolution image to get the idea of the mechanics and the function of the pendulum, they need such high quality images to get confidence in the hardware. It is important to support this when the ability to direct hand-on contact with the hardware is taken away. Some of the experiences in combining open source software; real-time scheduling and measurement hardware into a cost efficient way is also discussed. The pendulum has been available publicly on the Internet but has now been removed due to security issues.