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A Web Based Instrumentation Platform For Use In Distance Learning

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Best Zone Papers

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.143.1 - 8.143.10



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Paper Authors

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Jay Porter

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Joseph Morgan

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Enabling distance learning is becoming increasingly important to the mission of today’s institutions of higher education. Much work is being performed to offer online courses that make education accessible to those who do not fit the model of the traditional full- time student.1,2 Tools such as WebCT make the task of offering a typical lecture course via the Internet straightforward.3 Unfortunately, while this works well for lecture courses, educational programs that rely on a hands-on learning approach must develop meaningful laboratory experiences that can be delivered via the World Wide Web. Many universities have ongoing efforts in this area.4,5 The Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering Technology (EET/TET) programs at Texas A&M University are currently evaluating methods for offering distance education laboratories. To accomplish this, a subset of the programs’ laboratory- intensive courses is currently being evaluated and tested by the current student body. One course in particular, Computer-based Instrumentation and Control, has offered unique challenges requiring innovative solutions. In this course, students learn the basics of computer-based instrumentation including analog and digital data acquisition, software-based signal conditioning, and industry standard instrumentation platforms. The first five weeks of the semester are devoted to individual labs that teach analog-to- digital conversion, digit-to-analog conversion, digital input/output, and transducer interface. The lab then culminates in a ten-week project where students interface to motors, transducers, and sensors and create an operational mobile platform that can be remotely monitored and controlled. To solve the challenge of making an instrumentation platform that is accessible from the web, the authors have chosen to use National Instruments’ Fieldpoint data acquisition system and LabVIEW RealTime software development environment.6 The use of Fieldpoint in the lab allows students to create LabVIEW code on any PC-based platform. They can then download their code to the Fieldpoint target hardware and test it over the Internet. In this manner, they can perform data acquisition and signal-conditioning experiments remotely. Because the platform also has to be mobile for the second part of the course, an 802.11b wireless network has been installed in the building. The students can download their code and test drive the platform, untethered by wires. LabVIEW RT allows the platform to run controller software independent of a personal computer. The platform is controlled through the use of a Datasocket data server that is also Internet based. Web cameras allow the students to view the platform while remotely executing their software.

Porter, J., & Morgan, J. (2003, June), A Web Based Instrumentation Platform For Use In Distance Learning Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11692

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