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Aerial Photography Project Using MATLAB Programming for Freshman Introduction to Mechanical Engineering Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD X: First-Year Design with Projects, Modeling, and Simulation

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.149.1 - 22.149.26



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Paper Authors

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Mario Gomes Rochester Institute of Technology

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Aerial photography project using MATLAB programming for freshman introduction to mechanical engineering course An aerial photography project was developed for a freshman-level introduction to engineeringcourse. One of the major components of the course was introductory computer programming usingMATLAB. The newly created project incorporated creative freedom for teaching design along withengineering analysis using simple engineering principles (Archimede's principle, and geometric opticsin this case) as well as developing a semester-long program in MATLAB which was used to analyze theresults of their design project. The overall goal of the analysis portion of the project was to use theirbest aerial photograph of a target area marked on the ground to determine the area it enclosed. Thematerials for this project are readily available and rather inexpensive, but the project is flexible enoughto be adapted to a wide range of depth of analysis. The design-build project was done in teams of four students. The materials provided were thesame for each team of students and contained, among other things, 2 identical disposable cameras.Each team was to design and build a mechanical timer which they could set and then would trigger thecamera shutter without any input from the users. This timer would then be taken aloft by a set ofhelium balloons of differing sizes which they could “purchase” using points on testing day. Theyneeded to determine a method for finding the height of the camera when aloft, calibrate the cameralenses on the ground, and get their camera to the correct height using tethers and have it take aphotograph of the target area. Many different designs for timers were created from the materials given,ranging from water clock timers, viscous timers, ice timers, etc. The programming project was done as individuals, i.e. each student was responsible for writingthe analysis software. The course taught basic programming constructs such as loops, branching,functions, variables, etc. After the fundamentals were taught, each week a well defined section of theprogram was written which was ultimately put together in a working program which would take adigitally scanned image of their photograph and allow them to estimate the area inside a marked offarea on the ground using many rectangles (introductory Riemann sums). This project combined many of the core skills developed in the course into a single cohesivegoal while allowing flexibility in the design process.

Gomes, M. (2011, June), Aerial Photography Project Using MATLAB Programming for Freshman Introduction to Mechanical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17430

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