Virtual Power Lab

A Realistic Intelligent Multimedia Virtual Laboratory for Power Applications

Funded by National Science Foundation

DUE 1140306




This project is developing a software environment to simulate an electrical machines laboratory. The environment has an embedded intelligent agent coupled with an intelligent tutoring system and offers an alternative experimentation experience at institutions that do not have a physical machines laboratory. Students are using the virtual laboratory as a safe test bed to garner experience prior to encountering machines in a real laboratory. The software offers an intelligent agent-based virtual instructor that represents an expert in the power field. The instructor answers questions, provides guidance and supervises the virtual laboratory – when specifically requested by the student.

The graphical user interface (GUI) enables students to simulate various electrical machines and drives described by differential equations, without requiring students to develop computer programs. The intuitive and simple-to-use GUI is based on detailed numerical methods (for the simulation), which is entirely transparent to the users. The environment allows students to learn the basics of electric machines, while they test, analyze and design them. The GUI allows users to modify any machine “on-the-fly” by entering a new set of machine parameters, such as resistors, inductors, inertia, etc. Advanced users also have the ability to define their own mathematical model of an electrical machine.


The project is developing an intelligent tutoring system that is engaging, adaptable, and tailors instruction to individual learners. The virtual laboratory increases the number of students who can experience the challenges and excitement of power engineering. The system offers the potential for reaching a diverse range of students who might not otherwise have access to equipment or are discouraged from entering a physical laboratory. The effort also helps address safety concerns of students that might avoid taking power engineering courses because of the high currents and voltages encountered in the labs.



  1. James Kollmer, Robert Irwin, Saroj Biswas, Walid Saad, Arif Sarwat, Li Bai, “Development of an Experimental Platform for Analysis of Cyberattacks on Power Grid”, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Columbus, OH, June 25-28, 2017.
  2. Ning Gong, Saroj Biswas, Li Bai, and Brian Butz, “An Intelligent Tutoring System for Multimedia Virtual Power Laboratory,” ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, New Orleans, June 26-29, 2016.
  3. Ning Gong, Brian Butz, Saroj Biswas, Li Bai, “Web Based Scalable Intelligent Multimedia Virtual Laboratory for Power Engineering,”, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Seattle, June 2015.
  4. Ning Gong, Brian Butz, Li Bai, and Saroj Biswas, “A Realistic Multimedia Virtual Laboratory for Power Engineering”, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Indianapolis, June, 2014.



A laboratory practicum is considered a key component of engineering education. However, a hands-on approach is often ignored for courses involving electrical machines because of safety issues, expenses, and lack of qualified teaching assistants. This paper presents the planning and development of a web-based application that can simulate a virtual laboratory for electric machines. This Virtual Power Laboratory[1] (VPL) is developed on a universal web-based platform that can be accessed anywhere by most mobile devices and modern computers. As a proof of concept, nine virtual experiments have been developed for DC motors and generators. Machine concepts are summarized using text, 2D and 3D graphics as well as multimedia animation. The animated graphical user interface (GUI) plays an important role as it enables students to review and retain basic concepts by building a bridge from the virtual environment to the real laboratory. Multimedia is employed in order to provide visual guidance to the students for better understanding of machines.

Interested viewers may visit the VPL website and use it for their self-learning or for classroom adaptation.   Please send emails for any questions on the VPL.  Your suggestions are much appreciated.

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