University of the West Indies:

How to ugrade a control lab and benefit from buying over building equipment in-house.

University of West Indies Case Study The BSc in Electrical and Computer Engineering course at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad is a British-style, three-year program designed primarily for students coming out of the Caribbean high school system. With a relatively short program length, students are exposed to an intense concentration of technology courses, unlike many North American colleges that blend the humanities in their engineering programs.

Challenge: INDUSTRY-RELEVANT EXPERIENCE FOR THE UNDERGRAD STUDENTS IS A "MUST"
Dr. Brian Copeland of the university's Faculty of Engineering is certain of what his students must get out of his classes. "The control industry in the Caribbean is process oriented," he says. "In the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, in particular, process industry is fuelled by expansive oil and gas reserves. This industry, in turn, fuels the most dynamic economy in the English-speaking Caribbean." 
He adds "Trinidad and Tobago provide more than 50 percent of the natural gas demands of the Eastern USA and is a world leader in the supply of Methanol."

To balance the demands of an intense curriculum, industrial needs, and a frugal university budget, Brian turned to Quanser for assistance in updating his undergraduate lab.

Solution: ADVANTAGE OF BUYING EQUIPMENT OVER BUILDING IT IN-HOUSE - SAVING TIME AND MONEY
While an in-house solution was possible, Quanser's low-cost lab equipment was available immediately, along with full curriculum.

To get his undergraduate lab updated quickly and cost-effectively, Brian selected ten Quanser Engineering Trainers DC Motor Control (QET). The portable standalone trainer is designed to demonstrate control fundamentals using a wide range of control methods.

"Before the Quanser acquisition, our aging laboratory resources included five outdated DC servo systems and a mix of other control rigs," he explains. Unsatisfied with the limitations of his equipment, he began searching for alternatives. "The department had already successfully experimented with PC-based oscilloscopes and was looking for a solution that allowed for easy experimental rig manipulation from the PC. The department had also started the process of building an in-house solution when we happened on Quanser's QET system. Given the resources available at the time, we estimated a two-year lead-time for the in-house solution while the Quanser option was immediately available. The Quanser solution provided us with a means to immediately remedy the urgent problem of an ever-increasing class size while still facilitating the development of higher level creative skills."

Result: SPACE-SAVING CONTROL LAB EQUIPMENT MOTIVATES ENGINEERING STUDENTS
Brian is delighted with his space-saving purchase and is looking to expand his lab with more QET units. This is because Quanser's QET DC Motor Control Trainer provides an ideal way to demonstrate the fundamentals of motor control, tuning and haptics. The advanced trainer is exceptionally versatile and can be controlled via analog, digital, embedded or computer control, including a laptop. It also comes bundled with comprehensive curriculum materials co-developed with Professor Karl Åström, a venerable force in control education.

Brian's students are now finding their control labs more relevant, interesting and memorable. He looks forward to enhancing his control lab with the leading edge and cost-effective Quanser technology.

 

Dr. Brian Copeland is Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of the West Indies. He describes himself as an active lobbyist for engineering education reform and motivator for change to a regional innovative culture. He has served as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at UWI St. Augustine since 2007. Prior to this appointment he was Head of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering – a position he held for ten years. He also interfaced with students as a Lecturer in Digital Electronics, Microprocessor Systems and Control Systems.
Winner of a Trinidad and Tobago National Scholarship (Cambridge A’Level Mathematics), Brian Copeland gave early indications of his future achievements by graduating as the top student in the Faculty of Engineering, with First-Class Honours in Electrical Engineering. Funded by a UWI Scholarship, he went on to do an MSc in Electrical Engineering at University of Toronto and became a Fulbright PhD Scholar at the University of Southern California.
The highlights of his distinguished professional career include being a joint recipient, along with the G-Pan team, of a Chaconia Medal Gold – one of Trinidad and Tobago’s highest national awards. He has also received the UWI Guardian Life Premium Teaching Award (November 2002) and the BP/AMOCO Fellowship Award for Senior Academic Staff at The UWI (January 2001). But this list of achievements would not be complete without mentioning Professor Copeland’s role as lead engineer for the construction of the Queen’s Park Oval’s full statistic electronic cricket display board in 1998.

 


 

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