FEL CVUT students received a unique teaching tool
Teachers of the Department of Control Engineering, FEL CVUT developed and provided students with sets of home robotic laboratories. Thanks to a special teaching robot, today the demanding subject Automatic Control, which includes lectures, exercises and laboratories, can be studied completely remotely.
The pandemic and its repeated return to forced social distance could only be seen as a problem or a challenge. Teachers from the Department of Control Engineering, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Prague CTU wanted to find a way to replace students with robotic laboratories, in which they could normally put into practice their theoretical knowledge acquired in the subject of Automatic Control. And so began the development of the home robotic laboratory, which today is becoming part of standard teaching.
A robotic set that allows you to study from home
The result had to meet two basic criteria - to be affordable and at the same time allow the application of automatic control systems at several levels. Since the use of the Lego kit, the team switched to the Czech Mercury, which enabled greater robustness and accuracy. The result is the second prototype vehicle with a pendulum, which is equipped with a pair of motors, several sensors and a programmable Beaglebone control unit. Teachers and senior students took part in the development and assembly. The whole project can be described as a creative process in which the teachers themselves test the possibilities that the new approach brings.
"The issue of control systems is very specific. In their practical application, it is not possible to work only with models, because the parameters that reality brings are missing. It was necessary for students to test in practice how their code will affect noise, minor or greater sensor inaccuracy or different grip or friction of road surfaces, "says Associate Professor Tomáš Haniš from the Department of Control Engineering. "The fact that the robot from the kit is not completely accurate and has to work with deviations is an advantage in the end. As a result, students will be better prepared for internships, where they will have to solve real situations, not theoretical problems. "
Personalized laboratory for each student
The project of a home robotic laboratory is still under development, currently one third-year student is working on it as part of his bachelor's thesis. Robotic vehicle learning is a success among students and teachers alike, and its wider involvement across Cybernetics and Robotics courses is being considered. At present, students focus on the design of the control system, in the future they could also design a structure suitable for fulfilling the given tasks.
The solution of home laboratories brought many advantages to everyday teaching. Students can continue to work when they want, they are not stressed by the hard slot in the laboratories, they know their robot and they can write the program to measure. The seminars themselves then serve more for joint debates and the search for solutions to possible problems. The involvement of the home robotic laboratory thus continues the approach of "inverted teaching" and animated YouTube lectures, which were introduced to the department several years ago by Associate Professor Zdeněk Hurák.
The department was able to finance the project from money earned by contract research for companies. The price of material per robot in the basic version is around 5,000 CZK, and although it is necessary to take into account certain service costs, it allows students to perform experiments and measurements at the level of laboratory equipment worth hundreds of thousands of crowns. The goal is for every student in the course to have their home laboratory available.
The device for distance learning was also developed at the Department of Measurement
In 2020, researchers from the Department of Measurement, FEE CTU developed a device that enabled practical teaching of high school and university students from home during the time of coronavirus limitations. The innovative LEO (Little Embedded Oscilloscope) can be used as an oscilloscope, voltmeter, function generator, DC source, pulse generator, counter or logic analyzer.