Miguel Hernandez University (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 5164-5172
ISBN: 978-84-612-7578-6
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
This paper presents the experiences with a remote laboratory we have implemented to carry out training with mobile robots. These practices are developed in the fourth year of the studies of Industrial Engineering, in the Miguel Hernandez University, within an optional subject which is structured around two main fields: robotics and computer vision. The main goals of the subject are to analyse the kinematics and dynamics of serial manipulators and mobile robots, and to study several techniques to extract the most relevant information from the images.

To deepen in these objectives, several practical sessions have been scheduled with the aim the student improves his knowledge of these fields and the relationship between them, in an applied way, using real robots and computer vision systems. These practices consist in the control of a mobile robot using the information provided by several cameras to decide the trajectory the robot must follow.

Traditionally, these practical sessions have taken place in the robotics laboratory, where the teacher exposes the principles of the robots used and the objectives of the sessions and then, the students have to create their own algorithms to extract the necessary information from the images and control the robot using this visual information. However, this situation presents several disadvantages. The number of robots is limited, so the students have to work in group and sometimes, some students do never train with the robot directly. Also, it requires the presence of the students and lecturers in an established timetable, and the time to carry out the sessions is limited so, some groups may not be able to reach the objectives of the session in the expected time. Also, most of the problems that arise during the development of the training are not related with the contents of the subject but with the functioning of the robots (architecture, problems with the hardware, implementation details, libraries…).

To avoid these problems, we have implemented a remote system to carry out the practical sessions, so that the students can access the robots individually, in a free timetable and with no restrictions of time. We have created a platform that permits the access to the robots available in the laboratory, in a transparent way for the user. The students can access the platform from any computer through Internet, independently of their operative system and with a very simple installation. There is a common graphical interface to access all the robots, and the students can monitor and control the robots in an intuitive way, without needing a deep knowledge of the architecture of the robot they are using. This way, the training is centred in the objectives of the subject, and the students take more profit of the educative process. Also, the students are provided with some templates to develop their algorithms and many examples of use.

The experience collected during the development of the sessions has shown how the students are much more motivated to learn in this way. The practices are much more fruitful and the objectives of the subject are fully achieved. This system empowers the autonomy of the student and allows a more fair evaluation system, where not only the final goals but also the work they have actually carried out can be taken into account.
remote laboratory, mobile robots, distributed platform, computer vision, european space for higher.