Virtual instrumentation can help institutes overcome cost barriers of full-blown experiments, and yet ensure delivery of hi-engineering concepts
“VI gives access to more number of students and opportunity to do experiments multiple times with different permutation and combinations”
officer on special duty, CDEEP, IIT-Bombay
So integral are labs to study of higher sciences that a reputable engineering institute without a well-equipped lab is hard to think of. However, lab experiments are becoming increasingly cost-intensive due to the rising sophistication of newer hi-engineering streams such as microelectronics and very-large-scale integration (VLSI).
Virtual Instrumentation (VI), which surfaced as cost-effective alternative to real lab experiments found early takers in the industry. Its benefits have been enormous not only for scientists and engineers but for markets too, as it enables quality improvements, shortens the development and testing cycles, and thereby helps lower costs.
Consequently, VI has been used to significantly cut down dependence on real-lab experiments in engineering institutes, globally.
Still new to India
In India VI is still more of a concept than a reality, among engineering institutes. Barring the IITs, not many institutes in India have introduced VI for simulation and analysis.
The Chennai COE
Emphasising on the importance of the collaboration, M V M Velmurugan, C.E.O Velammal Educational Trust says, “The aim is to benefit the college in terms of gaining domain expertise through research projects. Students shall learn industry relevant methods of making measurements & control and shall also gain practical knowledge which will help them gain placements in core multinational industries.”
The focus of the centre is to work on research areas like embedded industrial control, image processing, robotic system design, measurement and automation, wireless sensor network by encouraging ideation and innovation through projects based on real world applications, access to industry events, educational workshops, and training sessions on NI's LabVIEW. “Traditional lab experiments are limited by the instruments and restricted with syllabus. But the Virtual Instrumentation based laboratory experiments will nurture innovation and creativity in engineering and science education,” adds Velmurugan.
Online Laboratories @ IIT Kharagpur
Lab-on-demand an IIT Kharagpur helps improve technology education through expansion of lab-based learning opportunities. Prof CK Maiti, Electronics and ECE, IIT Kharagpur explains the rationale, “It is mandatory to have laboratories for hands-on experience in all engineering and science programs. Laboratories demonstrate course concepts and ideas and develop hands-on skill of the students. However, a fully equipped laboratory usually results in a huge expense. Maintenance costs also can be significant. Additionally, teaching assistants are required to set up the laboratory, instruct in the laboratory, and grade laboratory reports.”
Nevertheless, educators from engineering institutes have a positive view with regard to introduction of technology in the engineering process. Cost effectiveness is one of the major reasons for this encouraging trend. However, it is observed that a total replacement of actual laboratory experiments with virtual experiments is not encouraged.
At the Apeejay College of Engineering, VI is used in B Tech programs of electronics and communication engineering, and electronics and instrumentation engineering; and for the M Tech program of instrumentation and control engineering. It is also used in areas related to digital image processing, control engineering, configuration of various control design and system solutions.
Stressing on the need for VI in engineering colleges, Dr Nagaraj R, Professor and HoD at the Oxford College of Engineering, Bangalore, says that virtual instrumentation provides significant advantages at every stage of the engineering process