Since the iLabs@MAK project was founded, the ISA (iLabs Shared Architecture) that was developed at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has been used for the day to day running and hosting of the online laboratories at Makerere University and partner institution around the world.
The ISA is a software platform that consists of components that connect users and experiment/laboratory hardware remotely over the internet. This platform is normally hosted on the iLabs servers which are connected to the university’s local network. In its current state, it is only compatible with National instruments hardware. Using the ISA comes with a number of challenges which include:
- The National Instruments hardware used is to expensive
- The ISA is difficult to set up on a server
- There are limitations to the kind of labs that can be done
- Lack of ownership and hence lack of full autonomy
Open labs is a new project that is intended to address the challenges faced with the ISA by developing completely new software and hardware to run online laboratories. The name ‘open’ simply suggests that the platform will be completely open in every way. This includes aspects such as; being built based upon open source hardware and software, the workings of the entire platform being shared with the public i.e. hardware reference design and software source code.
The open labs project started only recently but has had steady development progress so far. The first accomplishment was the development of the oscilloscope module which is shown in the image that follows.