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Keywords:

  • remote laboratories;
  • e-learning;
  • Internet-based teaching;
  • PLC;
  • remote monitoring and control

Abstract

Education in technological disciplines requires students to be always in contact with real systems, where they can apply their theoretical knowledge. These systems tend to be expensive and the high initial investment is returned after a long time, as the resource can only be used by a limited number of students during the on-site practical classes. The use of remote laboratories, which allow students to access the system through the Internet, optimizes resources by providing access to a larger number of users at any time. In this article, we present a remote laboratory of a quadruple-tank industrial scale model, with real industrial equipment. The students carry out control activities on the system through the Internet as they would do in a laboratory classroom. The remote laboratory architecture is based on a three layer (physical layer–server layer–client layer) whose middle layer consists of four servers: Web Server, Proxy Server, Database Server, and Control Server. In the Control server, a link application based on OPC (Ole for Process Control) standard to select different industrial controllers which are connected to the scale model simultaneously has been implemented. Since the application is based on a standard, this structure can be expanded easily with other industrial controllers from other manufacturers. The remote laboratory is used in automatic and control subjects from different Spanish universities. Surveys conducted among the students about the use of Laboratory show that they perceive an improvement of their learning using the lab. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Comput Appl Eng Educ 22:375–386, 2014; View this article online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/cae; DOI 10.1002/cae.10.1002/cae.20562