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Adapting Engineering Laboratories To Enhance Learning Using Real Time Sensors

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.126.1 - 10.126.9



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Paper Authors

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Elizabeth A. Stephan

author page

Benjamin L. Sill

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


Adapting Engineering Laboratories to Enhance Learning using Real-Time Sensors

Matthew W. Ohland, Elizabeth A. Stephan, and Benjamin L. Sill General Engineering, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634


Clemson’s NSF-sponsored EXPerimental Engineering in Real-Time (EXPERT) project is designed to assess the efficacy of using real-time sensors connected to laptops in engineering classes. Earlier papers described the painstaking procedure used to develop parallel laboratories—one set of laboratories using sensors and another set of laboratories not using sensors, both with the same educational objectives and approaches. This rigorous approach is needed to isolate the effect of using the sensors.

By studying the use of sensors only in laboratories that can be conducted with or without sensors, we constrain the benefits of this new technology. This paper will address the benefits of adapting the laboratory content and pedagogy to make the best use of the technology without limiting the use of sensors to only laboratories that could be conducted without them. This approach results in learning that cannot be compared experimentally to a control group because of the presence of confounding variables. Nonetheless, benefits to learning are discussed, including the reflections of students.


Our previous work described the pedagogical approaches used in these curriculum materials and how those approaches were used in both sensor and non-sensor versions of the laboratories to isolate the benefit of using the sensors in the classroom.1 The pedagogical equivalency of the sensor and non-sensor versions is an assumption that underpins the research design.2 This paper focuses on updates to one of the parallel (sensor / non-sensor) laboratories, the development of a new parallel laboratory, and the extension of what we have learned about using the sensors in the classroom to exercises that cannot be designed as parallel laboratories because they cannot be conducted without the use of real-time sensors.

Ongoing laboratory development

Three lab modules are presented in the remainder of this paper. Each laboratory features a pre- lab activity in which students speculate as to what will happen or background material on the laboratory and questions for the students to answer. Each laboratory also has a post-lab activity in which students synthesize the “big picture,” sometimes integrating other course material to better understand the laboratory.

The first lab module is an update of the cantilever beam laboratory published previously. The second lab module is the newly developed fluid mixing laboratory that is developed in sensor Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Stephan, E. A., & Sill, B. L., & Ohland, M. (2005, June), Adapting Engineering Laboratories To Enhance Learning Using Real Time Sensors Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14950

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