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Experiment From Home

Students, researchers and business owners around the world will soon be able to use Northern Alberta Institute of Technology's multi-million dollar experimental equipment online from their own computers.

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By Kristy Brownlee

Home is where the lab is.

Students, researchers and business owners around the world will soon be able to use Northern Alberta Institute of Technology's multi-million dollar experimental equipment online from their own computers.

A web cam positioned above the machines and specialized programming, allows users to do testing remotely in real-time without physically being in the lab, said Tyler Mowbrey, project leader and fourth-year bachelor of technology student.

“It could allow people to use the lab during the night,” said Mowbrey, 25.

The technology is unique in Edmonton, but is widely used at major institutions in the United States. Mowbrey said.

So far, the application will be used for the institution’s chemical technology machines and could be used for robotics.

In the lab, a $300,000 gas chromatography machine – which allows substances to be separated and identified – is being used for project testing.

A web cam is hoisted above the equipment and software is installed on the machine’s operating system to allow out-of-lab use.

The high-tech machine could be used to test blood for illegal substances or to analyze fibers for blood recovered at a crime scene.

Students, researchers and other interested parties will soon be able to access the program 24 hours a day from home through a scheduling system. But those outside the school will be subject to an undetermined fee, said Mowbrey.

The remote lab technology is a school project Mowbrey and two other students are doing to complete their degree programs.

A similar remote lab program was used in 2004 and 2005, but was phased out and has since been redeveloped.

The project, in a testing phase, could go live as early as April.

Source: Edmonton Sun