Design Engineering
Showcase

Quanser

Student
Jordan Kotler
Team
Academic Applications
Supervisor
Prof. Peter Cheung
Role
Junior Engineer
Sector
Technology, Media and Telecommunications

Quanser is a Canadian engineering company that provides transformational engineering labs for universities. They design and manufacture physical lab equipment as well as supplementary curriculum material for university courses relating to Controls, Robotics and Mechatronics, resulting in a full lab experience.

As a Junior Engineer, I helped to develop Quanser Interactive Labs, a software product which emulates existing Quanser hardware, allowing students to partake in engineering labs from remote locations. This product development was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as students around the world are unable to attend in-person labs. The majority of my work involved computer programming and curriculum development.

Demonstration of Design Engineering Thinking and Skills

As a Design Engineer, one has a solid enough understanding of most engineering topics and disciplines to get the ball rolling on a multitude of tasks. However, to become an expert takes practice and application. Creating virtual models of existing Quanser hardware for QLabs, required me to learn a range of undergraduate control systems theory, programming languages and software skills.

I spent my first few weeks creating my own test mobile applications to develop an understanding for programming languages XML and Lua. I applied the programming logic that I had learnt through my computing modules at Imperial to develop basic interactive applications. Once I was independently developing modules for students I applied my Communication in Design skills by ensuring interactive elements were intuitive and that the feedback based on students’ inputs aided the learning experience.

 — Quanser

I was also given the opportunity to develop some curriculum for Quanser’s upcoming robotic arm manipulator, QArm. This allowed me to use my robotics experience to design a Low Level Control lab to teach students basic IO control. I used my perspective as a prototypical student and designed a lab that students would positively engage with, including topics, exercises, and questions in the lab that I felt were lacking from my own curriculum.

Role and Contributions

During my time at Quanser I was part of the eight person strong Academic Applications team. My team was responsible for the development and oversight of many Quanser products, from self-driving cars to desktop lab solutions. Personally, one significant project I was responsible for, was the creation, development, and maintenance of the QLabs Controls mobile application. I was able to help the team meet their accelerated timeline and release the mobile application in time for students returning to university in the autumn term. While I took on more responsibility than I was expecting, I had the opportunity to have a genuine impact on a product that will be used by students on an international scale. In this role it was necessary to keep a high standard of quality and organisation given the exposure and pertinence of this product to customers.

 — Quanser

I was also responsible for integrating new functionality into the mobile app which would allow students to use their mobile device’s email client to send their plot data and lab variables to their professor’s. This development increased the value proposition for the mobile application, making it a more attractive product for universities.

Beyond engineering tasks I was also able to contribute to the marketing and sales departments. I conducted market research by comparing competing products to Quanser’s newly released QArm, I researched relevant professors for the sales team to contact as prospective customers, and I worked directly with a Channel Sales Manager to create a resource of relevant products and curriculum for a distributor in India.

Summary

Working at Quanser was both challenging and enlightening. Not only did I expand my existing engineering skill set but I also developed a better understanding of workplace operations and organisational frameworks such as Agile Scrum. To be transparent, I didn’t see myself working at a company like Quanser for placement, but going into the role with an open mindset and a desire to have an impact is the best way to derive the most out of the placement experience.

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