New donations enhance labs

Jan 26, 2007

New donations from MotoTron Inc. and GE Fanuc Automation provide important, state-of-the-art resources for faculty and student research in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

MotoTron Inc., a company that enables mechatronic systems development and integration, recently donated four microcontroller target development units to the University's Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. (ECE).

According to Dr. Mark Wicks, head of the ECE Dept., each unit consists of an automotive microcontroller, a development harness and a complete set of the company's MotoHawk simulation software. The total value of this donation is $15,910.

The department's Distributed Embedded Systems Laboratory will utilize these resources in the modeling and simulation of automotive control systems in the Matlab/Simulink environment, and for the generation of target code and testing of designs on actual automotive components.

Dr. Juan Pimentel, professor of ECE and the lead Kettering faculty member who initiated and helped secure this contribution, explained that specific activities associated with the use of these components could include "throttle control systems, where students and faculty will design, simulate and implement automotive control algorithms with the actual electronics that go into a vehicle. This means that the hardware we use in the lab with students will be the actual hardware automotive manufacturers will use in vehicles sold to consumers."

He also said that in the past, students and faculty had to use software in developing algorithms before simulation and vehicle testing could take place. But with this new contribution, researchers are able to test designs in an actual car and make immediate changes, thus yielding immediate and practical results more rapidly. In addition, these resources will allow faculty and students to eventually control the drivetrain capabilities of hybrid vehicles, thus expanding the opportunities for advanced research on the next future of vehicles.

These resources will also provide target development capabilities to other equipment and resources in the Distributed Embedded Systems Lab, which includes Vector CAN networking tools and dSPACE rapid prototyping tools.

In related news, GE Fanuc Automation based in Charlottesville, V.A., recently contributed a set of manufacturing components to the ECE Dept. The mission of GE Fanuc Automation is to improve customer productivity with the best automation technology and services worldwide through the development of products that are simple to install, free from defects, easy to use.

These resources consist of GE Fanuc's Assembly Application Suite (AAS) hardware and software products to simulate manufacturing environments. According to David Foster, a lecturer in ECE, Kettering will integrate GE Fanuc hardware (simulators) and software into the course curriculum, and develop GE Fanuc-based continuing education offerings. GE Fanuc and Kettering will also collaborate on case studies and projects to expand GE Fanuc-based course offerings and solutions for discrete manufacturing industries. Initial course offerings will take place during the summer 2007 term.

"The ECE Dept. prides itself in providing a current, relevant and practical engineering education to students while keeping pace with the leading edge of technology," explained Foster. He also added that the academic experiences and research opportunities made possibly through this contribution "will allow us to continue to offering students an unparalleled experience in learning more about discrete manufacturing."

This contribution, brokered through Pimentel's relationship with GE Fanuc Automation, is one representatives of the company are happy to develop. "The cooperative agreement between GE Fanuc and Kettering is timely and will enable Kettering students and faculty to tackle significant problems faced by U.S. manufacturing plans through the use of this state-of-the-art equipment," he said.

Jack Faett, director of GE Fanuc's Discrete Manufacturing Solutions, said "these simulators will be instrumental in developing students' technical skills with manufacturing controls and software solutions."

Chet Namboodri, global director for Discrete Industries & OEM Marketing at GE Fanuc, said that the company "is pleased and honored to be integral in the hands-on laboratory education and controls curriculum development for the ECE Dept. at Kettering."

For more information about these resources, contact Dr. Juan Pimentel at (810) 762-7990.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9538