Virtual and Remote Industrial Robot Laboratory

Winncy Du

San Jose State University

Course Name & Description: ME192 Robotics & Manufacturing Systems  Scientific and engineering principles of industrial (serial) robots/manipulators. Homogenous transformation, robot kinematics, statics, dynamics, Jacobin, trajectories, control and programming. Lab experiments to support the lectures, verify the theories taught, and provide the students with hands-on robot operation, control (both computer and manual), and programming experiences and skills. Robot design, sensing (especially machine vision system), actuation, and applications. Other types of robots and applications.

Project Abstract: Laboratory exercises are critical for the students to learn how to control, program, and operate the industrial robotics, such as Cartesian, SCARA, articulate robots. However, real industrial robots are expensive and require regular maintenance and frequently upgrading on both control hardware and software. In addition, due to the limited space and the number of robots, not every student gets a chance to operate a robot. This project aims at creating a virtual industrial robot laboratory that has various robot configurations, so that students can operate these “robots” anytime anywhere. Most importantly, these virtual robots have exactly same features, functions, programing codes, control algorithms, and movement just like the real industrial robots do.

GE Credit: 3 units

Keywords/Tags: Virtual robot lab

Instructional Delivery: Hybrid: Both in class and online

Pedagogical Approaches: Multiple approaches will be used: flipped, supplemental Instruction, active/inquiry-based learning, and clickers.

Class Size: 24 students

About the LIT Redesign (Stage 1)

Background on the Redesign

Robotics class has been a popular but challenging class. There are many benefits of using the virtual robots such as reducing or eliminating the maintenance cost, providing a risk‐free environment, offering flexibilities, allowing lab experiments to be performed anytime, anywhere. One major benefit of virtual robot simulator is its ability to create a visualization of the robot model and movement in a visual 3D environment. Hence, student can gain a realistic experience in visualization and modeling robots. Visualization technique is a great education value and can help to reduce the analysis and study time while it enhances a deeper understanding of the teaching material. It is also very economical to use a robot simulator. A project-based learning will be also integrated into the course, which requires students to utilize the virtual simulator to implement a real-world manufacturing task, such as pick-and-place or a circuit board inspection.

Why Redesign your Course?

  • ME192 Robotics & Manufacturing System is a very important course for mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering students. It is also a crucial course in the curriculum of mechatronic program. The course consists of the two 50-minute lectures and one three-hour lab per week. Due to the complexity of the subject, teaching of robotics has always been challenging to instructors and at the same time, learning of robotics has always been a daunting task to students.
  • The Learning Problem: Hands-on exercises are very important for the students to learn the industrial robotics. However, due to the limited number of industry robots in the lab -- one Cartesian, one SCARA, and one articulated industry robots – not every student gets an opportunity to operate each type of robot. Designing virtual robots with useful visualization tool and instructions of operation can overcome these problems. By creating a virtual lab environment, the virtual robots with different configurations will be created that have exactly same features, same configurations, same control algorithms, and the same movement as the real robots. Each student can program, control, and operate each robot as he is in a real lab. In addition, a machine vision (a robot’s eyes), forward and inverse kinematics, statics, dynamics, Jacobian, singularity, and motion controls can also be taught through the virtual environment.

High Demand/Low Success/Facilities Bottleneck Issues

  • Students love robots and they want to learn how to program and control robots However, robots, especially the industrial types of robots are expensive. Commercially available educational robots range from $15,000 to $60,000. Most robotics labs in the nations have very few robots. As a result, not every student gets an opportunity to operate a robot, which becomes a bottlenece issue in robotics education.

Course History / Background

  • ME192 Robotics & Manufacturing System course has been offered by the Mechanical Engineering Department at SJSU for more than 20 years. It is offered every year as an technical elective course. Average 30 students take the class including both senior and graduate students.

(Upload syllabus from pre-designed course)

Orignial syllabus
This is the orignal syllabus before course redesign

About the Students and Instructor(s) (Stage 2)


  • StudentThis semester (Fall 2018), a total of 32 students enrol ME192 Robotics & Manufacturing Systems class. Among them, seven (7) are the graudate students, twenty-five (25) are the undergraduate students (in their senior year). Prior to enrollment, these students were required to have basic knowledge on rigid body kinematics and dynamics, programming, and control. Upon the completion of this class, the students should be able to handle the miltiple-rigid bodies' ( like a robot arm that has multiple links) kinematics and dynamics, write programs/codes to control a robot's motion and perform the given tasks.

Advice I Give my Students to be Successful

  • What are the instructions you give your students so they have a first-rate learning experience? Consider providing as much detail as possible.

I asked the students to do both theoretical calculation/derivation and experimental verification to enhance their learning outcomes. For example, when teaching a robot manipulator's forward kinematics, I asked the students to derived the robot's end-effector's (i.e., gripper) forward kinematics with respect to the reference coordinate system; in lab, I asked the students to work on the exact same type of robots -- the students had to start from the base, then measured/determined the robot's parameters and location vectorsh. and orientation matrices, link by link, all the way to the end-effector. The both results should match

Impact of Student Learning Outcomes/Objectives (SLOs) on Course Redesign

  • List approximately 5 - 10 learning outcomes which will determine what students will know and be able to do as a result of this course. The assessments you facilitate in your course should be appropriate measures of these learning outcomes.
  1. Distinguish various robots’ configurations (Cartesian, SCARA, Articulated, Cylindrical, Spherical, and Parallel) and their workspace
  2. Describe a homogenous transformation matrix and its meaning for a robot joint
  3. Perform joint-to-joint transformations to find the end-effector’s position and orientation
  4. Calculate the force or torque required at each joint in order for a robot to move with the desired velocity and acceleration
  5. Find the Jacobian of a robot
  6. Understand and describe a robot’s workspace and singularity
  7. Derive robot dynamics equation using both Newton-Euler’s law and Lagrangian method
  8. Control an industrial robot both manually or automatically (through a computer program)
  9. Design a robot’s trajectory with the desired velocity, acceleration, and via points
  10. Write a code using Matlab, ACE, and V programming tools to control and simulate an industry robot

Alignment of SLOs With LIT Redesign

  • Briefly describe how the course redesign will align with the SLOs.

Course redesign will aim at ensuring each student have an opportunity to learn all the course contents and achieve the same learning objectives online anytime, anywhere. They would also be able to operate each robot in the lab remotely (e.g., at home) or virtually (through computer simulation) just like they would do and see if they are in the lab physically. Here are just a few examples of the alignment of SLOs with LIT Redesign:

SLO#1: To be achieved through both virtual lab experiments and remotely acessible lab experiments;

SLO#6: The simulation/virtual tool would allow the students to choose, among given workspace drawings, which workspace for a specific type of robot;

SLO#8: The redesign would allow the students to remotely acess the lab's computer, write codes, and perform control of a real robot. Then the camera installed in the lab allowed the students to see how the robot that they control moves.

Assessments Used to Measure Students' Achievement of SLOs

  • How are you planning to assess the students' achievement regarding the SLOs?

I plan to assess the students' achievement through evaluating their performance in homeworks, exams, lab exercises, and course projects. Specifically:

SLO#1: HWs, Exams, and virtual or remote acess lab.

SLO#2: HWs, Quizzes, and Exams.

SLO#3: HWs, Exams, and Lab Experiments.

SLO#4: HWs, Exams, and Simulations.

SLO#5: HWs, Quizzes, and Exams.

SLO#6: HWs, Exams, Simulation and Lab Experiments (both virtually and romotely access).

SLO#7: HWs, Quizzes, and Exams.

SLO#8: HWs, Exams, and Performance of the robot.

SLO#9: HWs, Quizzes, Exams, and Performance of the robot.

SLO#10: Evaluation of programming codes based on the performance of the robot to be controled.

  • What course activities are you planning to measure?

Homework Performance

Exams and Quiz Performance

Robot Performance or Experimental Results (e.g., control a robot's movement along a designed trajectory/path);

Programming Code Verification (a student write a program for a specific task, and the instructor will excute the codes to see if it works);

Course Project Prototypes, Functionality, and Performance (two or three students will work as a team on a course project).

Accessibility, Affordability, and Diversity Accessibility

  • Share how you have considered designing the course to serve students with varied abilities. Does the technology support all students, including students with disabilities? Consider tapping into campus resources for video captioning or appropriate syllabus design for sight-impaired students.

The lectures in videos will have voice to explain the learning materials. The lectures or lab descriptions posed online will consider to add a "read out" function as wel as the caption description.


  • Are the course materials and technologies used readily available and affordable for your students? Describe the potential cost savings when using more affordable learning materials. To learn more: AL$, COOL4Ed, or MERLOT

The course materials will be posted in SJSU canvas (video lecture is free). Virtual lab is free(unless the platform needed -- e.g., MATLABor ACE). Remotely access the lab may cost $100 per person per semester.


  • Do the pedagogical strategies support students' learning with diverse backgrounds? For example, consider cultural, ethnic,gender, student learning style preferences, socioeconomic status, first generation students, etc.

Yes, thestrategies are to support the students' learning with diverse backgrounds. It may have each website for different language speaking students.

I will also plan to have a "Help Center" or a "Tutorial Site" online to provide the informations to the students who have less robotics background/knowledge when taking ME192 class.

About the Instructor

  • Instructor name(s). Please provide a 4-5 sentence description of your professional background and interests, your teaching philosophy, or anything else you'd like to share publicly. Suggestion: Add a picture and/or video.

I have one BS degree in Mechanical Eingineering, two MS degrees (one is in Electrical, the other is in Mechanical Engineering), and one PhD in Mechanical Engineering. My teaching interests include Robotics, Sensors, Dynamics, and Control. My teaching philosophy is "Learning through Doing".

Curriculum Vitae

  • My C.V. with the details of my background and interests. (Please include your name.)

LIT Redesign Planning (Stage 3)

Implementing the Redesigned Course What aspects of your course have you redesigned?

  • What are you now doing or planning to do through the redesign of your course? For example, "I used to lecture with some question/answer periods for 50 minutes. Now I "flipped" the classroom and have my students solve problems in groups of 4 during the class and I present 10 minute mini-lectures when students are confused about key topics."

Here are the things that we have done, are doing, and have planned to do:

Vido Lecture Recordings (completed already)

In the past, I delivered all lectures in person and in a physical classroom. Now I made 12 lecture videos, so the students can "enter" the lectures any time, any where at their own pace. Students' feedback has indicated that these videos are very helpful.

Remotely Accessible Lab Experiments (In progress)

Currently we are installing two cameras (180 degree apart) around a six-axis robot, so that a student can remotely see how the robot performs through these two cameras.

The remote operating procedure includes:

(1) a student needs to log on a website from his/her own computer;

(2) through this website, the student should be able to access into a local computer in the lab (this computer is connected to the robot to be operated and has the software, ACE, that the student can remotely access the computer, write programming codes on it, and then control the robot remotely.

(3) student can click/choose which camera to activate to see the robot's performance.

Virtual Lab Experiments (In progress)

The team is currenty collaborate with Omron/Adept Technogy on improving the existing robot simulation tool and explore how more practical educational components can be added to fit the needs of virtual lab requirements.

Describe the class size(s) What technology is being used?

  • What technology strategies have you adopted and why? Explain how you have incorporated the technology to enhance your course redesign.

The class size: 32 Students.

Technology stragegies used: flipping, field trip, robotics conference attending, discussion, group learning, hands-on practice.

What professional development activities have you participated during your course redesign?

  • The PLC webinars, technology training, conferences, etc. § Key concepts learned?

To prepare myself for the course redesign, I have participated following workshops

(1) 7/9/2018-7/30/2018:I participated the CSU's online workshop/training course "Independent Improving Your Online Course (IYOC)", and had and successfully completed the course and received the certification. From this workshop, I learned how to apply the QM rubrics to one course and how to create accessible documents for disable students.

(2) 7/31/2018-8/22/2018: I participated the CSU's online workshop/training course "Independent Applying the QM Rubric (APPQMR)", and had and successfully completed the course and received the certification. From this workshop, I learned how to align the course contents to the learning objectives, how to measure/assess them, as well as related activities to support these goals.

Which Additional Resources Were Needed for the Redesign?

  • Describe, for example, how you might have incorporated or consulted with institutional research, instructional designers, department or campus colleagues, librarian, and/or the accessibility technology center.

On 5/29/2018, 5/31/2018, and 6/7/2018: I participated and successfually finished the SJSU's “Engaging for Success” teaching workshops. During these workshops, I practiced on creating new or revised instructional materials, performed various classroom activities with SJSU colleagues, and shared teaching experiences with them as well.

We have explored:

(1) several journal/conference papers related to tele-operated laboratories in literatures and robotics simulation tools available online or in companies.

(2) TeamViewer Connection solfware to connect a student's remote computer, via the internet, to a local computer (in lab) controlling the robot.

(3) ACE software/platform to allow controlling a robot via a computer that has the ACE installed.

(Upload your revised syllabus here)

LIT Results and Findings (Stage 4)

LIT Redesign Impact on Teaching and Learning

  • How has the course redesign strategies affected your instruction and your students’ learning? Did your redesign strategy solve the issues that motivated you to redesign the course?

(1) The course redesign enables each student to conduct the lab experiments remotely him/herself at their assigned time-slot, so he/she doesn't have to wait in lab for other students to finish using the robot station or he/she has to work in a group (e.g., more than six students in a group) due to the limited number of robots available in the lab.  Thus, the students' learning outcome would be greatly improved 

(2) The redesign strategies also give students more time to prepare, conduct, and digest the lab experiments, so that they would not start the lab until they feel they are ready and fully understand the procedures without rushing through in a physical lab (which happened a lot in the previous courses). 

  • Describe how your students mastered the student learning outcomes. Were the students more successful in the redesigned course than in previous courses? Explain.  

Through (1) lectures; (2) experiments; (3) term projects; (4) homework; (5) discussion board; (6) team study and team work.

The recorded video lecture strategy has been proved to be one of the most effective ways to enhance the students' learning, because the student can watch these videos as many times as they want to master the materials taught.

Students would have better understanding the materials and learn better by actually operating/performing the lab him/herself. Learning by doing (instead of observing his/her team members' doing) would definitely improve the learning outcomes.

  • Did you experience unexpected results after teaching the redesigned course? If so, what were they?  

In Fall 2018, we mainly focused on the hybrid teaching strategies for ME192 Robotics class: that is, half students took the class physically, the other half just watched the recorded lecture videos without being in the class physically. Surprisingly, ALL the students liked the video lectures and they said that these videos really helped them learning (they watched the videos multiple times, instead of just one time in classroom). In Fall 2019, we will focus on the remote operated lab experiments, so we would share more results later.

  • Consider attaching a more in-depth report describing the impact of your activities and experiences during the course redesign as a document/link/image. If possible consider including samples of students' work that reflect the impact of the redesign.

Assessment Findings

Here are the comparison of the students' performance before redesign (Fall 2013) and post-redesign (Fall 2018).  As the results suggested, (1) more students received "A"s in Fall 2018 after providing the lecture videos to students (one of major two components in the course redesign); (2) the number of the students got "B" are same; (3) less students received C or C—.  Apparently, the course redesign have helped the students' learning and improve their course performance. 

  • Share how your students achieved the learning outcomes? Describe how they mastered the learning outcomes compared to previous courses?  

In Fall 2018, it is the first time to provide the students in the robotics class with the lecture videos (as one of major components in the course redesign).  No doubt, this step has enhanced the students' learning outcomes.

Student Feedback

  • What did your students say or how did they respond to the redesigned activities? Consider including your students' comments about their learning. Include survey results if you are able to capture them. Include student video feedback (optional).    

I conducted a survey on the redesigned course ME192 Robotics class in Dec. 2018. 22 of the 32 students responded the survey.  100% students liked the video lectures posted online; but a few students liked the remote operated robot laboratory as the wanted to touch the real robots.  A new survey for the remote lab will be conducted in Fall 2019 when ME192 will be taught again.

Here are some of the students feedback:

For Video Lectures:
(Menson Li): I think the lecture video really helps because some concept may not be easy to absorb within a short period of class time. Having access to the video lecture provides an opportunity to review the content later when I am more cognitively ready to rethink the concept delivered in lecture.

(Patrick Barrera): They are useful when I wanted to review them after I missed writing an important step in solving a problem, when I did not know how to start a problem, when I missed an announcement, and for doing a final review in preparation for the exams. They were, however, no substitute for attending class. I learned a lot from Dr. Du’s lectures, and the videos helped solidify my knowledge.

For Lab Innovation Technologies:
(Meson Li): I think remote control wouldn’t be an effective method as one problem we faced this year in lab is the lack of operational robot. Even if all the robots are operational, there are still not enough robots for all the lab students. Also, the effort in setting up a remotely controlled environment might be greater than just setting up a simulation in the computer for students.
(Patrick Barrera): I feel that the students must experience in-person how the robot looks and how it will move in order to better visualize what is going on. The ACE software actually has an emulator that can mimic the movements of an industrial robot; part of Lab 1 was to use this feature for Direct Kinematics. One possible idea is to implement one or two virtual lab experiments as the introductory lab experiments in order to prepare the students for the real robot.

Challenges my Students Encountered

  • What challenges did the students encounter in the redesigned activities? E.g., technical challenges, organization of course, and redesigned activities.

Quality of video recording: need a better room to record the lectures. Sometimes the stuff did not follow the instructor or did not zoom in enough.
Realization of remote operated robotics lab:  Students and I run into many issues to be solved: interface the cameras to the computer, remote access of lab computers, remote demonstration of moving robots, and associated software.

Lessons Learned & Redesign Tips

Teaching Tips

  • We discussed this redesigned course with (1) the Omron-Adept coorperation's Robot training expert, Mr. Nolan Chan.  His comments were that the course would help the students' learning robotics subjects anytime, anywhere with the remotely operated robots.  He mentioned several other programming languages for the robot control that we can evantually teach and use (e.g., Pathon). (2) the IT expert at SJSU, Mr. Anderson Lee.  He had many experiences on the technologies behind the online education, and he shared with us his findings and issues related to online lab courses (e.g., may be consideration Virtual reality)
  • We will offer ME192 Robotics class in Fall 2019.  We will collect the students' feedback on the tele-operated robots.

Course Redesign Obstacles

  • The most chanlenging part is how we can make the remote controled robot lab to be as real as possible, making the students feel that they are in the lab themselves.
  • For the future work/improvement, we could integrate the virtual reality techniques into the teleoperated lab experiments.

Strategies I Used to Increase Engagement

  • One is to offer the students with the flexible time to finish their lab experiments instead of being physically in the lab and during the specific time frame.
  • For the students who have creative ideas on how to improve the current setups to make their online experiments more interesting and effective, extra credits may be offered.


  • I have been very interested in Lab Innovation Technologies since I joined in SJSU in 2000.  I have created online quizzes, hybrid (half online, half in lab) experiments for my Mechatronics before.  I will continue this path and keep up with the latest technologies and investigate their potential applications in education.

IInstructor Reflection

  • I have learnt a lot through participating in this LIT program in redesigning a course.  I not only took at least two online CSU courses (both received the certificates) to prepare myself on implementing and development of an ePortfolio, participation in CSU Course Redesign Professional Learning Community Share/presentations, and meetings,  but also plan to write an educational paper to be submitted to an Education Journal (e.g., ASEE) to share our experience (after getting more data in Fall 2019's Robotics class).  I will also share my experience with my engineering colleagues in our monthly meeting/discussion. I am also looking forward to extend the lab to biorobotics, smart systems.