PEMCWebLab - Distance and Virtual
Laboratories in Electrical Engineering –
Development and Trends
Pavol Bauer*, Viliam Fedák†, Otto Rompelman*
* Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands, e-mail: P.Bauer@TUDelft.NL
Technical University, Košice, Slovak Republic, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract—The paper deals with basic philosophy and An overview of some typical solutions is presented in
structure of remote controlled laboratory for the reference . Within the PEMCWebLab a more
experimentation in Electrical Engineering. The laboratory complex system of virtual laboratories is developed
collects experiments from fields of Power Electronics, containing not only single experiments but the whole set
Electrical Machines, Electro-Mechanical and Motion of the experiments  that are distributed across Europe
Control Systems. The workbenches in the real laboratory (Fig.1) and the experiments allocated there cover basic
are used over internet. The real experiments of the remote fields of electrical engineering. They are placed in
controlled laboratory are placed at various universities. A different laboratories at universities. The system to be
special care is devoted to preparation of the learners to developed presents an open system enabling later
experimentation, including examining their knowledge expansion. The virtual (distance) laboratories are not any
before joining to the experiment. To have a feeling of web-based simulation. They present real electro-technical
participation in the experiment, except of the measurement experiments conducted in the laboratory, but they are
data, also the signal from web camera is transferred to a remotely controlled and monitored by web-based tools
distance operator. with visualization of measuring apparatus, electronic
components and many more factors.
Keywords— e-learning, remote controlled experiments,
engineering education. Design of such a system except of technical solutions
dealing with access and sharing of remote experiments
requires solving number of other tasks that is pointed out
I. INTRODUCTION in the following.
Although modelling and dynamic simulation are basic
tools for understanding and verifying theoretical subjects, II. REMOTE PEMCWEBLAB,
the experimentation with a real system plays a ITS FUNCTIONALITY AND SUBSYSTEMS
fundamental role that cannot be replaced. Analysis of To support distance learning in electrical engineering a
these tools from view of modern education is given in . set of remotely controlled real experiments from fields of
Practical education needs to be based understanding electrical engineering mainly from Power Electronics and
phenomena that occur in real systems. Remote control of Electrical Drives and motion control has been developed,
the experiments trough Internet comes as a solution to so that they create the PEMCWebLab (Fig. 3). It can be
these problems, allowing students to control them, without approached via webpage www.PEMCWebLab.com
leaving their normal workplace. (Fig.2) where there is also a direct link to the booking
Rapid development of ICT technologies since
beginning of 90ties enabled expansion of online distance
laboratories. Their utilisation presents the latest trends in
education – to get practical experience by experimentation
with measurements, verifying properties of complex
equipment and well as analysis of the equipment in
various operation points. Tacking advantage of the
internet and development of related technologies, an
increasing number of remote access solutions are being
developed. A remote hardware experiment are adapted in
such a way that it can also be accessed from the Web that
enables distance sharing of the experiment by other
individuals and/or institutions.
Currently we can find numerous solutions for remote
controlled experiments in various fields of practical
education and also there are running numerous projects
focused to their developments that are presented at special Fig. 1. PEMCWebLab project partners.
conferences, e.g. in ,  and special sessions of the
scientific conferences , , , , , , etc.
• the objectives should be described in terms of
knowledge and/or skills to be acquired by students,
• the objectives should be realistic given the attributes
of the target group (prior knowledge, skills) and the
time available for the students (credit points),
• the outcomes should be testable; if not, they should be
left out or reformulated,
• there is an ability to analyze the function and working
of electrical power (electronic) systems,
• there is an ability to design, implement and verify
electrical power (electronic) systems.
Since both analysis and synthesis are key competences
of engineers, the main objectives of the project are highly
appropriate in an engineering education environment. A
Fig. 2. Web page of the PEMCWebLab (www.PEMCWebLab.com). few remarks should be made with respect to these issues.
Analyzing existing systems implies measurements. It is,
system and more information about the project, however, very important, that students learn to conceive
dissemination results and description of different modules measurements as a means, rather than a goal.
(measurements). Measurements are a means to verify a hypothesis of the
The PEMCWebLab creates an integrated learning functioning of the system under analysis. The modules
platform. Several learning issues are addressed such as: should indeed be structured such, that this concept indeed
• Learning objectives becomes clear. Therefore, it is proposed, that any
• Education measurement is embedded in the following structure of
• Animation consecutive steps:
• Simulation • Define the function of the system
• Experiment • Decompose into subsystems with sub- functions
In the first part the learning objectives of each • Formulate hypotheses on characteristics of subsystems
experiment are addressed. In the part education a • Voltages, currents
theoretical background of the each individual experiment • Design measurements for verification of hypotheses
is given. Interactive animations developed in the previous • Carry out measurements
project are addressed further. The last educational method • Compare results with hypotheses
before experiment is the simulation. • Evaluate learning
As far as synthesis is concerned, all modules will lead
A. Learning objectives to a common design methodological approach for the
The experiments are not only analysis oriented (to student.
measure and see the results) but also synthesis oriented. The main function of PEMCWebLab is to provide a
They should involve a design aspect. Therefore the web-based remote control for designed experiments. The
measurements are designed as a project with educational learning process includes several, specially designed,
philosophy. experimental tasks. However, for safety reasons no one
The learning objectives for each single experiment are will be allowed to perform any experiment until he, or
defined with the goal that: she, has shown adequate knowledge of the experiment.
Fig. 3. Principal structure of the PEMCWebLab distance laboratory.
Entering wrong input parameters, due to insufficient B. Teachers
knowledge of the experiment, may also lead to improper The document for teachers is aimed at understanding
operation of the experiment. Therefore, a learning routine the different (technical) functions available in the module
is designed for learners to gain the prerequisite knowledge and enabling the creation of an educational environment
which is required before attempting the experiment. for students. The document should at least contain the
After completion of the online experiment, the learners following items (chapters, sections):
are given an opportunity to take a simple questionnaire or 1) Goal of the module: the educational objectives
alternatively to submit their report through the available as envisaged by the developers of the module.
feedback subsystem for its final evaluation (depending on
the requirement enforced by the instructor). All learning 2) How to create experiments for the students.
procedures are recorded for future reference and analysis. 3) How to create assignments.
4) Suggestions for assessment.
III. MANUALS 5) How to create a structure for communication
The quality of a product is largely determined by the with students.
quality and completeness of accompanying documents. 6) How to communicate suggestions for
Documents are meant for communication. It can be very improvements to the developers and/or their
helpful to contemplate on the four main issues of successors.
communication. These issues can be expressed as
questions, viz: C. Technical staff responsible for maintenance
1) What do I want to tell it? As everything in life, things need maintenance. This
2) Why do I want to tell it? holds for the PEMCWebLab - modules as well. Though
3) To whom to I want to tell it? initially the maintenance may be taken care of by the
developers of the modules, after some time the attention
4) Once these questions are adequately answered, of these developers will be deviated to other issues, and
the answer to the final question can be the maintenance will be left to other people or
formulated: disregarded. Unfortunately, the latter is more often a rule
5) How do I tell it? rather than an exception. An analysis afterwards of this
The order in which the questions are answered, it is a undesired development usually leads to the conclusion,
logical one, if we start from scratch. In the PEMCWebLab that things were not sufficiently documented.
project we have already chosen for an educational The contents of the document(s) for maintenance are
structure and the overall goals are clear: better and easier largely dependant on the form of the modules. It should
learning of complex matters in electrical power contain at least:
engineering. Therefore let us start with the third question: 1) Functional block diagrams,
To whom do I want to tell it? The answer immediately
leads to the so called target groups. If we turn to the first 2) Input and output specifications of different
questions in somewhat more detail, it will be clear, that modules,
the target groups will need different information. 3) Detailed diagrams of individual blocks including
Furthermore, the same information may be presented in key measurement points with their normal
different ways for the different target groups. voltages, waveforms etc.,
The main target groups are: 4) Structural diagrams of software modules (source
A. Students codes only on CD-ROM or DVD).
B. Teachers IV. EXPERIMENT ADMINISTRATION
C. Technical staff responsible for maintenance
A central booking system is available at the project
A. Students page PEMCWebLab.com Booking system is provided
through Moodle software. Layout of the Moodle pages for
The goal of the document is to make students familiar all experiments is uniform. This page will contain menu
with the educational objectives of the module. It should with the following submenus:
provide them with sufficient information to work with the
module. It should be clear what students are expected to 1) Learning objectives
do and how their results will be assessed. In order to 2) Education
achieve this, the document could contain the following 3) Animation
items (chapters, sections): 4) Simulation
1) Educational objectives
All the submenus at the booking system are to be
2) Assumed entrance competencies accessed without restriction of number of students. The
3) Structure of the module (block diagrams) actual booking is provided in the submenu Experiment.
4) Instructions how to use the module The experiments can be booked one week ahead, the
5) Assignments/tasks length of the offered time window for the experiment
varies from 5 to 30 min. Before the experiment becomes
6) Instructions how to communicate with teachers available online, it should be tested to verify the
and fellow students correctness of the experiment results as well as the
7) How to communicate suggestions for stability of the experimental set-up. The power to some
improvements experiment is available 24 hours a day; some experiments
are available for safety reasons in the working hours only.
An administrator of each experiment can restrict the use • The guidelines for project oriented measurements
if the experiment for his purposes during some days or with the learning objectives for distance and /or
hours only. Supervisors have to routinely check the status virtual practical education,
of each experiment to make sure that each of them is • Synthesis oriented experimental measurements,
functionally correct and is available for use.
• Technology and technical documentation for distance
Several clients can connect to PEMCWebLab.com practical education and measurements via the Internet,
simultaneously. However, Internet bandwidth becomes
extremely limited when too many remote users request to • Different designed measurements each with its own
use this system. Several concurrent, remote users are philosophy.
allowed via an Internet connection for each experiment. The outputs from the project will present:
However, each experiment in the PEMCWebLab can be • teaching material (in electronic form; guidelines,
operated only by a single remote user at a time. The manuals, documentation in English and other
system thus considers each experiment as a “resource”, languages),
and remote users who wish to operate a specific
experiment should first get permission to operate the • distance and virtual laboratories approached via web,
experiment. Once the resource is in use, other remote • vizualization and layout of the measured system, and
users cannot access that resource, because it is then • measurement results obtained via Internet.
marked as “locked.” All the remote users without access The following modules are proposed (Table 1, grouped
permission can see only the online, real-time video of that into sets of modules) in such a way that they cover
experiment. fundamentals and basic applications of the EE and
Server Site Administration advance topics including the application “as well”.
As already said every experiment has its own server
and it is located at the different location. Remote users
first logged onto a main booking server, after which they
will be directed to the specific server for actually
performing the experiment get into the page of the
V. SET OF REMOTE EXPERIMENTS
A Leonardo da Vinci EU project titled “E-learning
Distance Interactive Practical Education - EDIPE”  is
suggested and approved to create a full set of distance
laboratories. Twelve universities with the span across the
EU are participating in the project (Fig. 1).
The expected specific results of the project are:
• Learning objectives for the distance experimental
Fig. 4. Remote experiment for three-phase space vector modulation.
LIST OF MODULES WITH REMOTE CONTROLLED EXPERIMENTS IN THE EDIPE PROJECT
Group Group of specialized Module
N° subjects N°
Fundamentals of 1.1 Single Phase and Three Phase Rectifier Circuits
Electrical Engineering 1.2 DC Circuit Measurements and Resonant AC Circuits
2.1 Power Converters
2.2 Power Factor Correction
2.3 PWM Modulation
2 Power Electronics 2.4 DC-DC Converter for Renewable Energy Sources and Microgrid
2.5 Power Quality and Active Filters
2.6 Power Quality and/or Electromagnetic Compatibility
3.1 Basic Electrical Machinery – Synchronous Generator
3.2 DC Machines
3 Electrical Machines 3.3 Basic Electrical Machinery – DC Motor
3.4 Basic Electrical Machinery – Asynchronous Motor
4.1 Basic Elements of Internet based Tele-manipulation
4.2 Mechatronics, HIL (Hardware in the Loop) Simulation
Electro-Mechanical and 4.3 High Dynamic Drives - Motion Control
4 4.4 Automotive Electrical Drive
Motion Control Systems
4.5 Complex Control of a Hoist Equipment by a SLC
4.6 Intelligent Gate Control by a Small Logic Controller (SLC)
This work has been performed within the project „E-
learning Distance Interactive Practical Education
(EDIPE)”, (project No CZ/06/B/F/PP-168022)
supported by the EC within framework of Leonardo da
Vinci II programme and partly by the project No
“Individualized Learning Enhanced by Virtual Reality”.
The opinions expressed by the authors do not
necessarily reflect the position of the EC, nor does it
involve any responsibility on its part.
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