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Credits

The NetLab project is funded by the School of Electrical of Information Engineering in the Division of Information Technology, Engineering and the Environment, University of South Australia. It is based at the Mawson Lakes campus in Adelaide, South Australia. It is a key part of it's policy and commitment to innovation and it's support of the development of new technologies.

Project Leaders

Jan Machotka

Senior Lecturer

School of Electrical and Information Engineering

University of South Australia

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Zorica Nedic

Senior Lecturer

School of Electrical and Information Engineering

University of South Australia

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NetLab 2 - Design and Development

Ben Loud

In 2006, Ben Loud undertook a major software development effort to create a brand new version of NetLab, written from scratch, that would incorporate all of the ideas from the previous years of development in to a new, modern, high quality design. He introduced many new engineering innovations including new architectures, protocols, algorithms and frameworks that would be used by later developers to extend the system through a plugin mechanism. Details of his designs can be seen in the How NetLab Works section. He also developed the NetLab website and supporting infrastructure. He continues to offer support to new developers and maintains the NetLab website.

Brett Thredgold

For the 2006 redevelopment effort, Brett Thredgold (right) worked closely with Ben, acting as the systems engineer and project manager. He focussed on project requirements, project planning and project scheduling and produced all associated documentation, the Final Project Report and other deliverables. He provided the assessment of device capabilities and feasibility studies which resulted in detailed requirements and functional specifications. He also acted as the primary test engineer throughout development, produced the user and administrator manuals, technical documentation, and participated in the architectural design process.

Aaron Mohtar

In 2005, Aaron designed and built the very first custom hardware for NetLab. He created a set of variable resistors, managed by a microcontroller that communicates with the NetLab host computer. This capability allowed circuits to be totally configured remotely. The design was later extended by another group of students to incorporate variable inductors and capacitors. See here for more information.

Aaron has since gone on to continue his research in remote laboratory systems as PhD student. He has developed MicroLab, a remote laboratory for microelectronics fabrication. It includes many concepts pioneered by NetLab, while taking the idea of a remote laboratory in innovative new directions. MicroLab can been seen at http://microlab.unisa.edu.au

In 2008, John Duffy (left), Michael Eaton (center) and Adrian Brown (right) extended the variable resistor designs developed by Aaron Mohtar to produce variable capacitors and inductors. This significantly improved the capability of the NetLab Circuit Builder, allowing for entire experiments to be performed using completely configurable components. The project involved both printed circuit board design and microcontroller programming, as well as significant problem solving in order to overcome the inherent difficulties with capacitors and inductors.

NetLab continues to be developed by final year engineering students each year. In 2007, Sam Begg took over software development and finalised the integration of the redeveloped system, providing developmental support adding several features and fixing bugs. In 2009, Bradley Campbell, Adam Kangas and Garrick Wager are working to add support for a new model of oscilliscope, by building on the existing plugin mechanisms and toolkits. Also, Hsin-hung Lin, Hieu Nguyen Trong and Hwee Wong have added an external Flash-based audio-visual communications application that allows NetLab users to communicate using their webcams and microphones.

NetLab Classic (2002-2005)

These UniSA students contributed to the development of the original version of NetLab. Many of the concepts that they pioneered can still be seen today in the new version.

Undergraduate Students

Farhan Arif
Andrew Sprok
Scott Carr
Michael Phin Ted Chen
Clinton Pavier
Hee Henn Wong
Sim Kok Heng
Patel Bhavik Sudhir

Postgraduate Students

Hemalkumar Shah
Lars Ola Ruud
Shashikanth Yadabettu
Thanh Hoang Vo
Peter Davis
Panot Kaewsane
Tobias Czauderna
Raffaele Calabrese

Sponsors and their Statements

Professor Andrew Nafalski

Professor of Electrical Engineering

School of Electrical and Information Engineering

University of South Australia

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I am writing in my role as one of the project sponsors. I believe that the project is realistic and will bring tangible benefits both to the School and to the University. Conduct of remote experiments may resolve one of the difficulties of off-shore/distance delivery of laboratory intensive programs, such as engineering and science, which normally either require organisation of laboratory components off-shore or bringing the students to Adelaide. Both these solutions have significant financial and logistic implications.

The team members have a history of successful applications for and accomplishment of innovative teaching and learning grants within the University and the necessary professional and pedagogical background. They have been actively involved in educational developments and publishing significant number of educational research papers; two finalise their PhDs, one is currently studying Graduate Certificate in Higher Education at QUT. The School is also one of the expertise areas in virtual programming using LabView by Texas Instruments (to be one of project's tools), therefore the team will have a supportive and creative working environment. This gives me the confidence that the project is fully feasible.

Scalability within the School would be very rapid due to the functional similarity of many laboratory components within IT Engineering but also in Radiation Dosimetry, with obvious extension to Medical Radiations. A University-wide seminar demonstrating outcomes of the project will help to identify other areas of applicability of the project outcomes and required training/dissemination.

Associate Professor Brenton Dansie

Dean, Teaching and Learning

Division of Information Technology, Engineering and the Environment

University of South Australia

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The project has realistic goals with a focus on establishing the infrastructure to be able to conduct remote experiments. The staff in the project have the professional background and experience to ensure that the project is completed. There are quite a number of potential applications of Netlab, most of which are described in the application. Perhaps some form of interaction with local High Schools might also be possible.

Whilst the team has built in a number of mechanisms to ensure that the major internal stakeholders within the University will be informed of the progress of the project, the most significant aspect of scalability will arise when a successful demonstration is available. The team has scheduled a seminar at this stage; some hands on type of workshop may need to be incorporated into this if it has not already been planned. The further use of the system will then rely on other staff members seeing the potential of the system. The group has identified key staff in its project advisory group to assist with this. The nature of the product means that it will be fairly easily scalable by the addition of further experiments.

I am keen to see that the project plays a role in supporting the development of a Divisional online strategy.

Professor Stephen Cook

Director: Defence & Systems Institute

School of Electrical and Information Engineering

University of South Australia

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I was very pleased to sponsor the Teaching Grant entitled "An online remote laboratory".

The Systems Engineering and Evaluation Centre runs two masters programs on behalf of the School of Electrical and Information Engineering and a good proportion of the subjects are conducted by distance delivery. The drawbacks of distance delivery are highlighted in the very well written application and this project seeks to ameliorate those associated with the lack of access to engineering laboratories.

I agree that simulation is unable to replace laboratory equipment and that there is no substitute for first-hand experience with test equipment and for interpreting the results that they produce. This was illustrated in the two final year audio projects conducted in 2001. While general agreement was achieved between the group that simulated amplifiers circuits and the one that designed and measured amplifiers, important nuances were lost with the simulations.

Aspects that I particularly like about the project were the its technical viability, scalability and professional value. I shall expand each one.

The General Purpose Instrument Bus (GPIB) has enabled the computerised control for electronic instruments for many years. This is mature, reliable technology. The technical challenge will be limited to connecting the GPIB controller to the UniSANet.

The instrumentation suite is scalable and can be used for a wide range of teaching sessions.

It is commonplace for test engineers and R&D laboratories to automate testing via a GPIB-controlled instrument suite. The ability to program such things is a valuable professional skill.

I am also keen to see the construction of the facility so that we can assess the pedagogical merit of the idea.