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A Two Semester, Multi-Approach Instrumentation Project for Mechanical Engineering Students

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Instrumentation Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.129.1 - 26.129.12



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Paper Authors


Dale H. Litwhiler Pennsylvania State University, Berks Campus

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Dale H. Litwhiler is an Associate Professor at Penn State, Berks Campus in Reading, PA. He received his B.S. from Penn State University, M.S. from Syracuse University, and Ph.D. from Lehigh University all in electrical engineering. Prior to beginning his academic career, he worked with IBM Federal Systems and Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems as a hardware and software design engineer.

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A Two Semester, Multi-Approach Instrumentation Project for Mechanical Engineering StudentsAbstractAs part of a third-year mechanical engineering instrumentation course, students are challenged todesign, fabricate, test, and characterize a custom air speed measurement instrument. The sameinstrument is then used, and enhanced, by the same students in their senior year in amicrocomputer interfacing course. The enhanced instrument is then retested and characterized.The enhancements are evaluated by the students for their merits and improvement in overallinstrument functionality. Specifically, the students design a Pitot-static probe to comply withloose specifications for size, weight, and materials. An electronic gauge pressure transducer withanalog voltage output is used as the measurement device. The third-year students test theperformance of and develop a calibration curve for their designs in a wind tunnel. The studentsalso write a specification for their instrument such that it could be commercially produced. Asseniors, the same student teams enhance their instrument’s design by including an embeddedmicrocontroller. The microcontroller includes analog-to-digital converter and serial portperipherals. The students develop microcontroller firmware to perform measurements of thepressure transducer output voltage, apply the calibration curve information, and transmit theairspeed to an external computer via a serial data line. By using the same instrument for bothcourses, the students get to experience the tradeoffs associated with different approaches to thesame problem. This paper presents the projects and the tradeoffs encountered by the students aseach design approach is implemented. Design team dynamics due to the time span betweencourses is also presented and discussed.

Litwhiler, D. H. (2015, June), A Two Semester, Multi-Approach Instrumentation Project for Mechanical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23470

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