Incorporating the latest testing and simulation software into a mobile lab environment that offers engineers and other visitors hands-on instruction in the development of new vehicle technologies.
Equipping the Michigan Tech mobile lab with state-of-the-art INERTIA™ test automation software, Dynacar vehicle model simulator, and related software – all developed and donated by WTI.
Figure 1. Equipped with software from WTI, the Michigan Tech mobile lab delivers hands-on education and outreach across the United States.
Constructed using a $3 million Department of Energy grant funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Michigan Technological University mobile lab is a unique venue for education (including hands-on professional-development short courses and seminars) and community outreach in the areas of energy, transportation, propulsion systems, controls, and others.
After Michigan Tech received the federal grant, WTI stepped in with additional resources to equip the lab with the latest testing and simulation software. WTI donated $80,000 in software licenses to the project, allowing Michigan Tech to use two powerful software solutions as teaching tools in the mobile lab
“WTI’s donation not only saved us the expense of purchasing or developing tools ourselves, but also enabled us to take our teaching lab to a new level,” says Jeremy Worm, research engineer at Michigan Tech and director of the mobile lab. “These are the latest tools that people would expect to see in a product development environment, and this hands-on learning is incredibly valuable for our students and visitors.”
Figure 2. Hands-on learning in the mobile lab includes using WTI’s INERTIA test automation software.
In addition to donating the INERTIA and Dynacar software licenses to the project, WTI handled the integration of the control and data acquisition system and provided the initial configuration and system level commissioning.
Michigan Tech uses the lab to provide onsite professional development courses for practicing engineers, as well as undergraduate and graduate engineering courses for college students. The university also takes the mobile lab on the road to conferences, exhibitions, fairs, and other events to demonstrate the latest technologies.
Figure 3. The mobile lab offers opportunities for hands-on learning through the entire process of defining, testing, and evaluating a product.
Housed in a 53-foot double-wide trailer, the lab is a complete, self-contained environment for hands-on instruction in and demonstrations of engineering concepts and the product development process. In addition to a spacious classroom, the lab includes two complete powertrain subsystem test cells equipped with INERTIA and Dynacar software, along with four universal lab stations for bench top experiments. Outside the trailer is a vehicle chassis dynamometer and a fleet of nearly 20 instrumented test vehicles.
“The WTI products included in this mobile lab offer hands-on learning throughout the entire product development process,” explains Darryn La Zar, vice president of sales and marketing for WTI. “For example, if you want to develop a new vehicle controller, you can start by defining the vehicle within the Dynacar simulation environment. Next, you move on to testing the controller with INERTIA in the test cell, and then use Dynacar to evaluate how it would perform on the road. Finally, you deploy the controller to a vehicle to validate the actual on-road performance. It’s great experience that is extremely valuable for later use in the industry.”
One of the main ways Michigan Tech uses the mobile lab is to travel to corporations and provide onsite professional development courses for engineers. The two- to three-day courses provide basic and advanced training in areas such as data acquisition and processing, controls, energy storage, electric machines, engines, and simulation.
Long accustomed to training programs consisting of purely lecture-style presentations, engineers enjoy a refreshing change of pace with the hands-on courses.
“The mobile lab does rely on a traditional lecture model, but after an hour of the classroom setting, students get to put what they’ve learned into action with interactive exercises, like testing a system in the test cell, or actually driving a car that includes a newly deployed system,” says Worm. “This diversity keeps them motivated and interested in what they are learning.”
Figure 4. Students in the mobile lab can use test vehicles to validate their assessments of how a product will actually perform on the road.
He also points out that by taking the lab to the engineers, instead of bringing the engineers to the lab, companies save on travel expenses and have the reassurance of knowing their engineering teams are still onsite and available if needed.
While the mobile lab’s college courses and professional-development short courses have thus far been focused on the automotive industry, Worm envisions them expanding to serve a broader audience.
“Regardless of whether you’re talking about a car or a tractor or a snowblower, you still have to do testing and use instrumentation,” he explains. “We use cars to teach these things in the mobile lab now, but we can see it easily becoming a venue for classes that go beyond the automotive industry.”
Whatever the industry, testing and simulation software from WTI will help deliver the hands-on experience that makes Michigan Tech’s mobile lab a unique environment for instruction and demonstration.