Monday, 13 December 2010

Recognising engineering and science innovation

Mechanical Heart Simulator by University of Leeds & Leeds General Infirmary wins NIDays 2010 Graphical System Design Case study contest

Left to right Dave Wilson, Dr David Keeling, Ali Alazmani & Robert Morton
National Instruments UK & Ireland recognised innovative applications developed by engineers, scientists and researchers in its NIDays 2010 Graphical System Design Case Study Contest. This annual technical paper contest, now in its 5th year, is intended to encourage and showcase the most innovative uses of virtual instrumentation and graphical system design in teaching or by engineers in industry. The winner and finalists, who used graphical system design to develop applications that meet complex engineering and science challenges, were congratulated by Dave Wilson, National Instruments Director of Academic and Corporate Marketing, in an award ceremony attended by over 500 engineers and scientists during NIDays 2010 at Savoy Place, London.

Dr. David Keeling and Ali Alazmani from the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds accepted the award for the winning paper, on behalf of their colleagues at the University and Leeds General Infirmary, who developed an intelligent, mechanical heart simulator or Ventricular Assist Device. The simulator is an artificial muscle wrap that assists a failing heart by applying compressive force, synchronous to the native rhythm, around the external surface of the heart’s ventricles. This cyclic “squeezing” action augments heart muscle efforts, leading to an improved output for the diseased heart. The team created a unique hardware-in-the-loop heart simulator that combines a real-time software blood flow model with a physical 3D mechanical heart. They used NI LabVIEW graphical programming environment and NI CompactRIO to enhance the testing environment so the heart simulator could operate as a stand-alone system and run reliably for prolonged periods of time. Dr Keeling commented that “CompactRIO offered a rugged, reliable, stand-alone platform, enabling our team to conduct prolonged testing, which would not have been possible on a traditional computer."

Wilson presented Dr Keeling with the first prize of a ticket, (including flights and accommodation), for NIWeek, the industry's premier global graphical system design conference and exhibition, taking place in Austin, Texas, in August 2011, together with a commemorative award plaque and a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT 2.0.

“Today’s innovators are asked to solve increasingly challenging and critical problems,” said Robert Morton, Managing Director, National Instruments UK & Ireland. “These awards recognise the cutting-edge ways engineers and scientists in the UK & Ireland are using the NI graphical system design approach in both the development and deployment of ground-breaking solutions to address the grand challenges facing humanity and to improve everyday life.”

Racing Green Endurance and Wavebob were also congratulated as the contest’s two finalists.

The case study written by Alec de Zegher and Tobias Schulz from Racing Green Endurance details the design and implementation of a control system for an electric super-car using CompactRIO. In less than nine months, the Racing Green Endurance team built a 400bhp twin-motor battery electric vehicle, to traverse the Pan-American Highway, the longest road in the world. CompactRIO, with its onboard Real-Time controller and field-programmable gate array was used to implement a tough, advanced and safe vehicle control system in less than four months. CompactRIO controls the vehicle’s battery management system which ensures the constant well being of the Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries and also manages the motor controllers, driver interface and safety systems.

Wavebob harnesses the immense power of the ocean to produce clean, renewable energy. Eugene Doogan’s paper describes the design of a prototype floating buoy device that automatically adjusts its response to suit the prevailing wave climate to maximise the amount of useful power delivered to the electricity grid on-shore. The control and data acquisition system of this prototype wave energy converter is powered by LabVIEW, Compact FieldPoint and CompactRIO. Wavebob’s goal is to develop a commercial wave energy converter that can produce significant electrical power for the onshore grid on coastlines with a suitable wave climate. (See also our article: Power from the Sea, April 2010)

The standard of case studies in this year’s contest was so high that National Instruments UK & Ireland gave Honourable Mentions to Rodrigue Akkari from BPP-TECH, for his paper about creating a riser management system for deepwater drill ships and semi submersible; and to Stuart Watson and colleagues from the Universites of Glamorgan and Swansea, for developing a magnetic induction tomography system for the detection of intracerebral haemorrhage using very low-noise RF signals .

To learn more about the NIDays 2010 Graphical System Design Case Study Contest and to read all of this year’s winning entries, visit

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