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A Project-based Online Experimentation Course

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Experimentation and Laboratory-oriented Studies Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Ahmet Can Sabuncu Worcester Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Sabuncu holds a Ph. D. in Aerospace Engineering from Old Dominion University. Dr. Sabuncu’s professional interests circles thermo-fluids engineering and microfluidic technology. His teaching and research interests span from engineering design to in vitro diagnostics where he uses microfluidic technology to build cost-effective devices for early diagnosis of diseases.

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John M. Sullivan Jr. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Professor John Sullivan joined WPI in 1987. He has had continuous external research funding from 1988 thru 2013. He has graduated (and supported) more than 100 MS and PhD graduate students. He has served as the ME Department Head and in 2012 was elected Secretary of the Faculty through 2015. Prof. Sullivan has always maintained a full teaching load. He strongly supports the WPI project-based undergraduate philosophy.

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This work focuses on creation of a project-based online Engineering Experimentation course in a Mechanical Engineering Department. The course is offered online and students are required to purchase a $100 kit that consists of a microcontroller (Arduino or Raspberry Pi), boards, cost effective sensors, actuators, and transducers. The class is structured to have six experimentation modules and an open-ended experimentation project. The contents of the experimentation modules are designed to educate the student on the most essential and fundamental skills necessary to construct complex experimentation setups. These experiments involve integration of several measurement sub-systems. In each formative module one experimental technique is addressed. Module one teaches students the fundamentals of microcontrollers and data acquisition with these cost effective devices. Module two focuses on temperature measurements through the use of a variety of temperature sensors. Students also learn about the theory and application of voltage dividers in this module. Module three uses ultrasonic proximity and infrared motion sensors to teach displacement measurement. Module four’s objective is to teach experimental techniques for using DC, servo- and stepper motors. Module five involves concentration measurement of different chemicals. In the module six, students measure strain on a thin-walled pressure vessel, a soda can. This involves discussions on analog to digital conversions, use of a Wheatstone bridge and uncertainty analyses. Students document each module with a written and video report. The written report must be sufficient that the module could be executed by another technical student without further assistance. The video report must illuminate the student actually doing the wiring and discussing the project as they configure and execute it. This latter reporting mode significantly reduces the need for additional verification that the student performed the module. Students have an open ended project as well that involves integration of at least three measurement or actuation sub-systems. These projects are student-proposed early in the class offering with periodic status updates. Students are not restricted to the sensors that were in the formative modules. They can use a variety of sensors or actuators for their projects. Project work can be conducted in teams of two students that are connected online. The instructional team reviews the student-proposed topics to ensure the feasibility of it. The final delivery of the project is a working prototype and a report that delineates the task of the prototype, theoretical information that pertains to the design, materials and methods, results and conclusion on the project.

Sabuncu, A. C., & Sullivan, J. M. (2020, June), A Project-based Online Experimentation Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34036

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