Asee peer logo

A Low-Cost Hands-On Instrumentation Course for EET Students

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

New Course Development Concepts in ET

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.66.1 - 23.66.15



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Biswajit Ray Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

visit author page

Dr. Biswajit Ray received his B.E., M.Tech., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from University of Calcutta (India), Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur (India), and University of Toledo (Ohio), respectively. He is currently the coordinator, and a professor, of the Electronics Engineering Technology program at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Previously, he taught at University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez, and designed aerospace electronics at EMS Technologies in Norcross, GA. Dr. Ray is active in power electronics consulting work for various industrial and governmental agencies.

visit author page

Download Paper |


A Low-Cost Hands-On Instrumentation Course for EET StudentsThe ability to conduct and design experiments is rated as one of the highest desirable technicalskills of engineering and engineering technology graduates. Specifically, a recent surveyindicates that employers want graduates with a working knowledge of data acquisition, analysisand interpretation; an ability to formulate a range of alternative problem solutions; and computerliteracy specific to their profession. Accordingly, a sophomore/junior level instrumentationcourse was recently updated to accommodate more students by modernizing the laboratory withlow-cost and portable data-acquisition hardware. For pedagogical reason, the problem-basedlearning (PBL) was implemented for this course. With PBL, students are empowered to self-direct their educational experience by designing experimental systems and/or subsystems againstgiven specifications. It is an instructional method, which uses real-world problems to facilitatestudents’ critical thinking and problem solving skills while accomplishing the course objectives.Additionally, a course-level assessment-improvement-verification feedback process wasimplemented for students’ classroom learning experience.This three-credit course meets for two one-hour lectures and one three-hour lab per week. Thefirst three weeks of the fourteen-week semester are primarily devoted to LabVIEWprogramming. During the next nine weeks, the concepts and hardware/software integration ofsensor and transducers, interface electronics, data acquisition and instrument control are covered.The final two weeks of the semester are dedicated to student-initiated and student-led laboratoryexperiment design. The distinction between lecture and laboratory hours is blurred in this coursesince the course is exploration and design driven. The lab/lecture hours are used interchangeablybased on students’ need. The major topics covered in this course are fundamentals ofprogramming logic, sensors and transducers, signal conditioning and data acquisition, instrumentcontrol, and instrumentation system design.The instrumentation and data acquisition specific software and hardware used are NI-LabVIEW2012 and a low-cost portable data-acquisition device (NI-myDAQ1), respectively. This USB 2.0Hi-Speed interfaced low-cost device, easily purchased and used by students in their dorm room,is considered more than adequate for a student-centered instrumentation course. Key features ofthe DAQ hardware along with its pictorial view are shown below.o 2 analog inputs (configurable as high-impedance differential voltage input or audio input), sampling up to 200 kS/s per channelo 2 analog outputs (configurable as voltage output or audio output), update rate up to 200 kS/s per channelo 8 digital I/O channels, each line is a Programmable Function Interface (PFI). Accordingly, counter, timer, pulse width measuring/generation, and quadrature encoding functions are available.o Power supplies: There are three power supplies available (+5 V, +15 V, and -15 V). The total power available is limited to 500 mW.o Digital multimeter: Can be used to measure dc and ac voltage (limited to 60 VDC and 20 VACRMS), dc and ac current (limited to 1 A), resistance, and diode voltage drop; measurements are Figure 1: A pictorial view of the low- software-timed. cost and portable NI-myDAQ1 device.Laboratory experiences in this course are grouped in four basic categories: software developmentonly; basic analog/digital/counter I/O integrating sensors/transducers; ON/OFF and continuouscontrol; and instrument control. Experiments focus on hardware-software integration in varioussystems including electrical/electronic, electromechanical, thermal, pneumatic and biomedicaltechnologies. As mentioned earlier, the final two weeks of the course are dedicated to student-initiated and student-led laboratory experiment design. The full paper will present and discusslaboratory experiment details as well as student-initiated experiment design outcomes. Specificobjectives and associated outcomes, along with direct and indirect assessment tools, will bepresented to validate the achievement of expected outcomes for this updated hands-oninstrumentation course.Reference1. National Instruments, “User Guide and Specifications: NI myDAQ,”

Ray, B. (2013, June), A Low-Cost Hands-On Instrumentation Course for EET Students Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19080

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015