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Automated Multiparameter Water Monitoring System as an Experiential Learning Platform for Undergraduate STEM Majors

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Automation, Instrumentation, and Computer Simulations

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

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Paper Authors


Xavier Shastri Domnique Henry University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

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Xavier Henry is currently a doctoral student in Food Science and Technology Program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES). His research involves the use of algae-based Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) systems to address the global trilemma concerning food, fuel, and environmental pollution.

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Madhumi Mitra Ph.D. University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

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Dr. Madhumi Mitra is currently a professor of environmental sciences in the department of Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. She is also the coordinator of Biology and Chemistry Education. Dr. Mitra is actively involved in teaching and research in the areas of biofuels and renewable energy; applications of algae in food and environment; and water quality. She has published several peer-reviewed articles in journals and conference proceedings, and is the recipient of various awards and competitive grants. Dr. Mitra received her baccalaureate degree from Presidence College in Kolkata, India with honors in Plant Biology, Geology, and Physiology. She received her master’s degree from University of Calcutta, India, and her doctoral degree from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC in 2002.

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Abhijit Nagchaudhuri University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

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Dr. Abhijit Nagchaudhuri is currently a Professor in the Department of Engineering and Aviation Sciences at University of Maryland Eastern Shore. He is a member American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and, American Society for Agricultural and Biological Engineers(ASABE) and is actively involved in teaching and research in the fields of (i) robotics and mechatronics, (ii)remote sensing and precision agriculture, and,(iii) biofuels and renewable energy. He has published more than 70 refereed articles in journals and conference proceedings. Dr. Nagchaudhuri received his baccalaureate degree from Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India with honors in Mechanical Engineering. Thereafter, he worked in a multinational industry for a little over three years before joining Tulane University as a graduate student in the fall of 1987. He received master’s degree from Tulane University in 1989 and doctoral degree from Duke University 1992.

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Lei Zhang University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

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Dr. Lei Zhang received his Ph.D. Degree in Electrical Engineering on 2011 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Since 2012 he is working in the Department of Engineering and Aviation Sciences, University of Maryland Eastern Shore. His main research interests include image processing, autonomous system, optical SoC/NoC architecture, and on-chip optoelectronic device design.

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Continued concerns over the effect of fossil fuels have made renewable and sustainable fuels a priority. Algal fuels, like bioethanol derived from the seaweed Gracilaria, are easily produced, and incur fewer environmental impacts, than their fossil counterpart. Furthermore, the alga can also produce other valuable products and remediate impacted ecosystems during the production cycle. Typically, algal culture for bioenergy occurs as a standalone venture but studies have shown that there are numerous benefits to integrated approaches. For example, seaweeds grown in tandem with aquaculture (Integrated Mutli-Trophic Aquaculture) have access to nutrient rich effluents while improving water quality and husbandry for fish and other seafood species. However, such integrated systems possess numerous parameters requiring constant monitoring, and therefore the effort required to achieve maximum productivity increases exponentially. In other industries, systems with this level of complexity have greatly benefitted from the injection of automation for fairly mundane routines. In this specific instance, the process of monitoring water quality to ensure that parameters remain within the optimal and safe ranges, meets these criteria, freeing up time to deal with other operational challenges. Kolb's cycle of experiential learning formed the basis for the student lead activities for the duration of the project. The cycle is a well-known and effective model in education which outlines the process where knowledge is gained through transformative experiences. As students immerse themselves in an active learning framework, acquisition of knowledge resulted from the combination of participation, assimilation, comprehension, and conceptualization of experiential processes in the affective, psychomotor, and cognitive domains. Once the project objectives and requirements had been defined in consultation with the graduate student, eight undergraduate engineering and computer science students set out to design and fabricate the monitoring and data acquisition system. The undergraduate students followed the system development procedure, where they proposed project objectives, identified design requirements, characterized system specifications, sourced all required components, and were involved in system fabrication. Throughout the project, the students were exposed to a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and faculty members from engineering, environmental sciences, and the aviation programs at the university. The students based their design around the Arduino MEGA and the system has the capability to measure, log, and display seven environmental parameters on an LCD screen. The parameters included temperature, conductivity, color, dissolved oxygen, oxidation reduction potential (ORP), pH, flow rate, and nitrate levels. The final system is currently packaged in a 3D printed case. An assessment was conducted following the activities, and students reported high levels of enthusiasm for the opportunity to participate in this cutting-edge research, and also displayed improvement in their content and team-building skills. The components of these experiential learning activities are incorporated in science and engineering undergraduate courses.

Henry, X. S. D., & Mitra, M., & Nagchaudhuri, A., & Zhang, L. (2016, June), Automated Multiparameter Water Monitoring System as an Experiential Learning Platform for Undergraduate STEM Majors Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26356

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