REAL LABWORKS IN ELECTRONICS: YES! ... BUT REMOTELY CONTROLLED
We present the implementation of a remote lab in electronics that accounts for the following facts, focusing on undergraduate students:
-there is a general decrease in the recruiting of STEM students (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
-the new generation of students is acquainted with mobility, Internet of Things, e-games
-SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) is now widely used in industry to control remotely industrial processes.
First, one aims at increasing student motivation, especially for 1st year undergraduates in engineering.
They also must learn to work in a new way by doing remote activities as it is often encountered nowadays.
There is a need for an application that can be used anytime and anywhere.
Indeed one wants to develop a learning tool that can also help other specific audience (handicapped people, life-long learning for employees).
For STEM curricula, labwork is mandatory. It should be accessible via the network.
It should adapt to each student: the best students can go fast, others need to repeat an activity, or need more time to complete an activity. An activity should be adaptive and fun: the itinerary must be polylinear.
To address those points, we present a prototype called LaboREM (for remote laboratory).
Its design is based on the mixing of three things together: remote lab, learning management system (LMS) and game-like approach.
Its implementation tries to be as simple as possible (classical client-server architecture).
The remote lab is supervised with NI-LabVIEW software: the remote front panel protocole (RFP) is easy to use in order to build quickly an application that can pilot remotely the devices.
The hardware uses an old-fashioned robotic arm (to mimic the user hand) and electronic components equipped with magnets that are easy to place on the electronic protoboard. A webcam with zooming control mimics the user eye.
The cooperative platform is based on an LMS. The call to the labwork activity is simply done with URL address calls.
The scenario is based on a game-like approach: Top10, treasure hunt with various learning pathes adapted to the student competences and mood.
The e-game scenario is based on the four basic concepts that are usual in e-games (and easily implemented with counters): number of lives (repetitions allowed), time spent, points (score or mark obtained for an activity), levels (beginner, medium, advanced).
Each experiment lasts less than 5 mn: a first-in first-out connexion management is used.
From our experience, student motivation increased by 15% thanks to introduction of Top10 and robotic arm with visual feedback.
But there is a technological need of web services for mobility, and of more immersion.
For that purpose, a mini-drone equipped with a camera flying over the lab at user's request is under investigation.
The cognitive need is to evaluate the collaboration on the cooperative platform.
There is also a need of more advanced image processing, especially face analysis to induce the behavior, emotion or mood of the student (angry, happy, inattentive).
Future work aims at piloting photovoltaic panels and wind turbine on the roof of the university building: a serious game approach will allow students both to manually control the system, and also to get acquainted with and more conscious of the importance of renewable energy.