Laboratory experiments are an important and integral part of the learning experience for undergraduate engineering students. They help the students in getting hands-on experience and in better understanding theoretical concepts. In recent years, a significant number of remotely accessible experiments have been developed and integrated into engineering laboratory courses at many educational institutions worldwide. There exist several approaches and technologies for making experimental hardware accessible via the Internet.
This paper will discuss some of the available technologies and a specific method for acquiring data from experimental setups via LabVIEW Virtual Instruments over a network. As an example, a remote experimental apparatus that was developed by upgrading a commercially available air flow rig with remote control and monitoring capabilities is presented. This system is used in a junior-level mechanical engineering course on fluid mechanics. It enables the students to access the experimental setup via the Internet either in real-time or batch mode. For real-time use of the experimental setup, remote panels are used. These remote panels are exactly the same as those that would be used on a local on-site server. They can be run under LabVIEW’s Web server to be observed and controlled by the client via any Internet browser. For the batch-mode use of the experimental setup, on the other hand, simple HTML pages in conjunction with forms are used to generate experimental requests that are sent to the LabVIEW server. This server then places these experimental requests in a queue and executes the appropriate LabVIEW scripts on a first-come first-served basis. This paper will discuss and compare both methods for performing remote laboratory experiments.