Modernizing collaborative digital education in emerging regions with active learning methodologies

Abstract: Collaborative development of digital learning ma- terials in emerging regions often hinders their widespread adoption due to resource constraints, limited infrastructure, skills gaps, lack of training for educators, and cultural or linguistic diversity. To overcome these limitations, we applied a collaborative development of digital learning materials, applying active learning methodologies such as the flipped-classroom perspective, challenge-based learning, and the use of remote laboratories. Educators from different regions around the world co-create learning modules that can later be reused, adapted, or translated for implementing various courses and programs. Before publication, all learning materials are peer-reviewed to ensure high quality. Several postgraduate programs in Energy are under development in different emerging regions, following an innovative educational approach. More than 43 universities collaborate across 21 countries on 4 continents with the support of 5 Erasmus+ Projects of the European Commission, aiming towards a global network of educators to modernize collaborative digital education.

Presenter: Alex Villazón

Conference: IEEE World Engineering Education Conference – EDUNINE 2024

Location: Guatemala City, Guatemala

Date: 10-13 March 2024

Enhancing Accessibility for Real-Time Remote Laboratories: A Web-Based Solution with Automated Validation and Access Control

Abstract: The use of remote laboratories nowadays offers multiple ad- vantages like accessibility, cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and safety. How- ever, ensuring a secure and uniform interface for a remote laboratory remains a challenge. In this paper, we present the development of the Real-Time Remote Lab Bridge Server (or simply BridgeServer), a tiny web server that provides secure and transparent access to remote labs, without the necessity of a third-party software or password sharing. Its key features are the serve of a web-based remote desktop session cre- ated with locally stored credentials, secure file downloads, session time administration, and automated access control thanks to the validation with an Application Programming Interface (API) of a Booking Sys- tem. This solution maintains control, employs consistent credentials for all users, and prevents direct access to lab equipment control software. We provide a real-world use case that exemplifies the flexibility of our solution simplifying access to a third-party software remote lab without any need for code modifications. We successfully solved access challenges in an international network of real-time remote labs deployed in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, particularly for Windows-based lab control software.

Presenter: Boris Pedraza

Conference: STE2024 – 21st International Conference on
Smart Technologies & Education

Location: Helsinki, Finland

Date: 06 – 08 March, 2024

Altitude’s Impact on Photovoltaic Efficiency: An IoT-Enabled Geographically Distributed Remote Laboratory

Abstract: In the context of online education, remote laboratories play
a crucial role in practical application of theoretical knowledge. Even
though there are some remote laboratories to study the solar efficiency
of photovoltaic (PV) panels, they are limited either to a single specific
location or restricted to simulated conditions. In this paper, we focus
on understanding the behavior of PV solar panels under diverse conditions, including altitude, Ultraviolet-A (UVA) influence, temperature,
and solar radiation, which are factors that cannot be accurately simulated and require real-world experimentation. We present the development of a distributed PV Solar Remote Lab deployed at three different
cities and altitudes, emphasizing Internet of Things (IoT) technology for
real-time data collection and experiment control. Our PV Solar Remote
Lab web platform incorporates a specialized I-V tracer system for accurate efficiency calculations. We obtained encouraging preliminary results
on altitude’s influence on PV efficiency. Our remote lab implementation
leverages IoT, providing valuable insights into the impact of altitude on
PV efficiency and promoting a deeper understanding of solar energy systems. We also contribute to online education by offering a user-friendly
platform for practical PV experiments in diverse real-world conditions.

Presenter: Andrés Gamboa

Conference: STE2024 – 21st International Conference on
Smart Technologies & Education

Location: Helsinki, Finland

Date: 06 – 08 March, 2024

A low-cost 3D-printed spectrometer based on Raspberry Pi

Abstract: This work presents the development of a low-cost mini-spectrometer based on a Raspberry Pi 3 single-board computer that can be connected to portable devices via Bluetooth or WiFi. Using the Raspberry Pi camera increases the sensitivity of the spectrometer, avoiding hardware-specific software to deal with different low-level camera parameters. This device solved issues encountered when running a smartphone-based spectrometer for a Spectrometry Remote Lab 24/7 due to heating problems and difficulties in capturing spectral reference lines of a compact neon light source. Moreover, an automatic spectral calibration algorithm was implemented using Artificial Intelligence, executed directly on the Raspberry Pi. The overall cost of the device does not exceed 100 USD.

Presenter: Omar Ormachea

Conference: RIAO/OPTILAS 2023

Location: San José, Costa Rica

Date: 27 – 31 March, 2023

Work in Progress: A Booking System for Remote Laboratories – The EXPLORE Energy Digital Academy (EEDA) case study

Abstract: Remote Laboratories are an important tool for digital education, allowing learners worldwide to get a close to real laboratory experimental experience. There is a large body of research in online and Remote Labs, but little attention has been given to defining a service ensuring exclusive access to remote laboratory equipment. Most Remote Labs do not check for exclusive access, thus allowing simultaneous users to interfere with each other. As such, existing systems are mostly for internal institutional use, not for global collaborative use with users from different institutions, countries, and time zones. This paper describes Book4RLab, a new general-purpose Booking System for Remote Labs, providing a secure and flexible interface for any Remote Lab to handle individual slot reservations. The Booking System requires only a small modification of existing server and client-side software. We describe the overall architecture and the Representational State Transfer (REST) Application Programming Interface (API) to use the Booking System. As a case study, we describe its use in the context of the EXPLORE Energy Digital Academy (EEDA), a growing international network for open digital education programs in the energy area, where 14 Remote Labs are under development in 4 countries.

Presenter: Alex Villazón

Location: Thessaloniki, Greece

Date: 1 – 3 March, 2023

Automatic selection of reference lines for spectrometer calibration with Deep Learning

Abstract: Instrument calibration is a critical but time-consuming process in many scientific fields. In this paper, we present an approach using Deep Learning, with Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) for automatically detecting reference lines required to calibrate a spectrometer with well-known wavelengths of mercury and neon spectra. To train the neural network, we collect a dataset of spectral images by taking images with cameras of different resolutions. Moreover, we prove that RNNs can learn to predict spectra lines in the calibration process with high precision. We match spectrometer measurements to their corresponding wavelengths by fitting a polynomial with these predicted reference lines. We validate our method using a 3D-printed spectrometer and compare the results with the NIST atomic spectra database. The automatic selection of neon or mercury reference lines helps the calibration procedure to become faster, thus avoiding any manual selection. Our proposed technique is suitable for spectrometry applications where the speed is critical and the calibration process needs to be performed frequently.

Presenter: Angel Zenteno

Conference: Smart Tech – IC 2022 – Third International Conference on Smart Technologies, Systems and Applications

Location: Cuenca, Ecuador

Date: 16 – 18 November, 2022

Development of Remote Laboratories: EUBBC-Digital

Alex Villazón PhD, director of CINTI-UPB, and Omar Ormachea PhD, director of CIOE-UPB (connected remotely), presented the project’s progress and gave a live demonstration of Bolivia’s First Remote Laboratory (Spectrometry Remote Laboratory), developed by the research centers they lead.

Presenter: Alex Villazon & Omar Ormachea

Meeting: EUSL Energy M30 & EUBBC-Digital M18.

Location: Twente, Netherlands

Date: 13 – 17 June, 2022

EUSL-Energy M25 Meeting: Development of Remote Laboratories: EUBBC-Digital

Abstract: We present an overview of the Remote Laboratories under development within the EUBBC-Digital Project. Then we present the latest developments of the Spectrometry Remote Laboratory under development by the UPB Team, which leverages an in-house low-cost smartphone spectrometer technology, the architecture of the remote lab, and a demo (video) of the use of Machine Learning for automatic calibration of the smartphone spectrometer and also the Web App interface. Finally, we present a proposal for a Remote Lab Booking System under development at UPB, that could be used by all Remote Labs in both EUBBC-Digital and EUSL-Energy projects.

Presenters: Omar Ormachea and Alex Villazon

Meeting: EUSL-Energy M25 Consortium Meeting

Location: Negombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka

Date: 07 – 11 March, 2022

A Low-Cost Spectrometry Remote Laboratory

Abstract: The Covid-19 has precipitated the digital transformation in education worldwide and has exposed weaknesses and limitations in laboratory and experimental activities, mainly in the field of engineering.

In this paper, we describe how we adapted our low-cost spectrometry technology (which is based on a 3D-printed mini-spectrometer and a smartphone) to deploy a remote laboratory as a rapid solution, due to the impossibility of using conventional and costly spectrometers, which work only for on-campus learning. This adaptation was helpful, not only to have several spectrometers available for a higher number of students but also to allow teachers to prepare asynchronous activities that can be realized without their presence. We applied Internet of Things (IoT) technology for remotely controlling the experiments and used Machine Learning to automatically calibrate our low-cost smartphone spectrometer.

Presenter: Alex Villazon

Conference: REV2022 – 19th International Conference on Remote Engineering and Virtual Instrumentation

Location: Cairo, Egypt

Date: 28 February – 02 March, 2022