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A Hydraulic Circuits Laboratory – To Improve Student Understanding Of Basic Electricity

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Conference

2007 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Design of Lab Experiments II

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count

15

Page Numbers

12.51.1 - 12.51.15

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/1723

Download Count

178

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Paper Authors

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R. William Graff LeTourneau University

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R. William Graff is a professor in the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University, where he has taught since 1975. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from Purdue University in electrical engineering. Prior to joining the faculty at LeTourneau, he was assistant professor of electrical engineering at Drexel University for six years, and at Wilkes College for two years. His professional interests include antennas, microwaves, plasmas, teaching, and ethics.

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Jessica Niemi LeTourneau University

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Jessica Niemi is a Biomedical Engineering junior student at LeTourneau University,active on the Biomedical ACL Research team as a junior member. She hopes to further her education in graduate school.

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Paul Leiffer LeTourneau University

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Paul R. Leiffer is a professor and Chair of Engineering in the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University, where he has taught since 1979. He received his B.S.E.E. from the State University of New York at Buffalo and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Drexel University. Prior to joining the faculty at LeTourneau, he was involved in cardiac cell research at the University of Kansas Medical Center. His professional interests include digital signal processing, biomedical engineering, and appropriate technology.

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Meagan Vaughan LeTourneau University

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Meagan Vaughan is a Mechanical engineering senior student at LeTourneau University. Her senior design experience has focused on the development of an above-knee prosthesis.

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Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Hydraulic Circuits Laboratory – To Improve Student Understanding of Basic Electricity Abstract

Concepts of voltage and current have often seemed foreign to students since they are measurable but not directly visible. For nearly forty years the author has introduced basic circuit concepts using a fluid analogy and has seen similar explanations in various textbooks. This year a true “wet lab” has been implemented to illustrate the concepts of voltage and current as well as Kirchhoff’s current law and the transient behavior of RC circuits. The hydraulic lab takes place as a portion of a supplementary lab for Circuits I which includes hands-on experiments with circuit components, timers, LED’s, and op amps. Student response to the hydraulic circuit lab will be discussed. This project was supported in part by a grant from the Keck Foundation with a purpose of updating laboratories and developing interdisciplinary laboratory experiments.

Introduction

The circuit concepts of voltage and current have often seemed foreign to students since they are measurable but not directly visible. Many students dread taking a circuits course because they have no “feeling” for voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, or inductance. It might be akin to never having used a prybar, rolled an object on wheels, or used a screwdriver or pulley. Some students have never even siphoned water from one container to another.

(The primary author (RWG) admits to having a hard time during his sophomore and junior years trying to understand these basic concepts,1 they were simply mathematical equations. He had, when younger, thought that there was something magical about working with mathematics. It took a very long time for him to regard electrical problems as physical systems to be modeled by mathematical concepts rather than a set of equations to be manipulated to obtain an answer.)

All engineering students at LeTourneau University take the same Circuits I course, whether their specialty is electrical, mechanical, biomedical, materials joining, or computers. Students in the mechanical concentration must learn the basic circuit concepts as well as those in the electrical concentration. Often the students in the mechanical option are more tactile learners and have difficulty grasping electrical concepts.

The first author has been trying to give students a bridge to communicate the basic concepts of electricity, and has found that an analogy to fluid flow can be very helpful. For nearly forty years he has introduced basic circuit concepts using a hydraulic analogy and has seen similar explanations in various textbooks. The water analogy has been used as an explanation on the blackboards (and whiteboards) for several years,2,3 but the goal has been to have a more tactile method of communication. This year a true “wet lab” has been implemented to illustrate the concepts of voltage and current, as well as Kirchhoff’s current law and the transient behavior of RC circuits.

The hydraulic lab experiment takes place as a portion of a supplementary lab for Circuits I which includes hands-on experiments with circuit components, timers, LED’s, and op amps. This

Graff, R. W., & Niemi, J., & Leiffer, P., & Vaughan, M. (2007, June), A Hydraulic Circuits Laboratory – To Improve Student Understanding Of Basic Electricity Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/1723

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