June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.55.1 - 26.55.10
A Hardware Enclosure to Increase Access to, and Reliability of, Data Acquisition Hardware while Enhancing the Student Laboratory ExperienceThe Multidisciplinary Engineering Laboratory is a sequence of three courses that integrate andreplace traditional laboratories in electrical circuits, fluid mechanics, and stress analysis.Students are asked to build and analyze small, laboratory-scale systems. The experimentsendeavor to move beyond basic theory verification by reorganizing knowledge to formconnections between fundamental concepts spanning several courses.Across the three phase sequence, experiments incorporate various types of transducers andmeans of gathering information. National Instruments’ LabVIEW software and data acquisition(DAQ) hardware are used to facilitate the data collection and expose students to industrystandard equipment.Until recently, the lab was equipped with PCI based data acquisition cards (National Instruments– NI PCI 6024) that were hosted by desktop personal computers. Students accessed the DAQsystem through a connector block interface (CB-68) with 68 screw terminals that becamestripped and worn after years of rigorous use. In addition, experiments involving strainmeasurement incorporated a signal conditioning card (SC-2043-SG). Unfortunately the signalconditioning cards were not easily understood and tedious to setup for the students and, over theyears, gradually started to fail. After careful consideration the lab was re-equipped with an up-to-date external USB DAQ system (NI CompactDAQ). This system offers several advantagesover the existing equipment as it is portable, modular, and expandable, while also simulatingindustrial practice that graduates are likely to experience. A challenging part of theimplementation was addressing the different types of interfaces offered by each module whichappear delicate and unlikely to hold up to repeated daily use over the course of many semesters.To address this concern an enclosure was designed to host the DAQ system. Benefits offered bythe enclosure include protecting the hardware while providing a reliable, student friendlyconnecting interface that is rigorous enough to hold up over repeated use and effortless tomaintain. These enclosures are not offered by the manufacturer of the DAQ system but areclearly needed in an educational laboratory environment.This publication examines the decisions, design, and process of building an enclosure for theDAQ system. The low cost enclosure, now integral to the lab experience, was designed, built andassembled by students and faculty, in-house, with readily available materials and equipment.Discussion will also include a comparison with the previous hardware, from a user perspective,and advantages to using a durable interface rather than attempting to directly connect to the newhardware.
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