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An IMU for You and I

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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

Mechanical Engineering Technical Session: Dynamics I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Andrew R. Sloboda Bucknell University Orcid 16x16

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Andrew Sloboda is an Assistant Professor at Bucknell University where he teaches a variety of mechanics-based courses, including statics, solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, dynamics, system dynamics, and vibration. His research interests lie primarily in the fields of nonlinear dynamics and vibration.

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Analyzing dynamics in three dimensions is challenging for students. This is because certain concepts become more complicated moving from two dimensions to three dimensions (e.g. moment of inertia) while others become both more complicated and less intuitive (e.g. angular momentum). As the number of interacting bodies grows, this is only further exacerbated.

One of the fundamental skills necessary to navigate this increasing complexity is the ability to correctly express quantities in different reference frames. However, students often find the mathematics for translating between different frames to be dry and abstract, particularly if introduced early in the course. Thus, they may not gain the understanding of concepts, such as rotation transformation matrices, Euler angles, or quaternions, that they need for later success.

In order to address this problem, a five-week long project on identifying a consumer application that would benefit from an IMU data logger was developed for an intermediate dynamics course. Over the course of the project, students are tasked with developing hardware for their application, collecting data from an IMU, and presenting that data in a relevant, graphical form. This project places the mathematical tools that students need to learn in the context of a compelling, real-life situation, thereby making them more relevant. It also connects abstract mathematics to a specific hardware implementation, providing a valuable hands-on learning experience that is often missing in this type of class. Finally, because the project focus is self-selected, students are intrinsically motivated and generally more engaged with the material than they would be otherwise.

This paper provides details of the organization of the project and the methods by which students were evaluated. Survey data which gauged student perceptions of the project, including their ability to apply key concepts, use campus resources, and capture and process IMU data, is also presented and used to assess project effectiveness. This data shows that students valued the IMU project and the opportunity to work with hardware, and generally found the project helpful in learning the mathematics necessary to relate different reference frames.

Sloboda, A. R. (2020, June), An IMU for You and I Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34126

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