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Benefits of Research Experience for Undergraduate Engineering Technology Students

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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

Graduate Education and Undergraduate Research in ET

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.279.1 - 22.279.13

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Paper Authors


Wei Zhan P.E. Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Wei Zhan is an Assistant Professor of Electronics Engineering Technology at Texas A&M University. Dr. Zhan earned his D.Sc. in Systems Science from Washington University in 1991. From 1991 to 1995, he worked at University of California, San Diego and Wayne State University. From 1995 to 2006, he worked in the automotive industry as a system engineer. In 2006, he joined the Electronics Engineering Technology faculty at Texas A&M. His research activities include control system theory and applications to industry, system engineering, robust design, modeling, simulation, quality control, and optimization.

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Research Experience for an Undergraduate StudentAbstractThe benefits of research by undergraduate students are well-documented in literature. NSF has aspecific program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), which supports the effort ofinvolving undergraduate students in research. In this paper, the research experience of anundergraduate student in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution(ETID) at ____ University is discussed.The junior student started to work in a research lab during the summer of 2010. The researchproject tasks include control algorithm design and implementation of the closed loop controlusing LabVIEW data acquisition card and a microcontroller on a printed circuit board (PCB) tocontrol the motor speed for a pump jack used in oil fields. Under the guidance of the facultymember, the student started with learning the basic operations of the pump jack control systemdriven by an AC motor. An inclinometer and a load sensor were characterized with acombination of looking up the datasheet of the sensors, communicating with professionalengineers and laboratory testing. The student then went through the basic LabVIEW trainingusing the National Instruments’ on-line training modules and attended a basic and intermediateLabVIEW hands-on seminar. A LabVIEW virtual instrumentation (VI) was constructed tomeasure and convert the signals from the sensors to their physical quantities, i.e., the angle andthe load force. The signals were analyzed using Fast Fourier Transform to identify highfrequency components. An anti-aliasing filter was implemented for comparison of effects of adigital filter and an analog filter. Using LabVIEW, a simple closed loop control algorithm wascreated with the two sensor signals as the inputs and the voltage to the AC motor controller asthe output.This work, mainly done by the undergraduate student, has two major benefits: 1) the studentlearned sensor characterization, LabVIEW, open loop control, anti-aliasing filter, digital filter,and closed loop control; and 2) it prepares for further advanced research in closed loop control ofthe pump jack system. In anticipation of future development for this project, the student wasguided through a process of designing a PCB to replace the LabVIEW control by amicrocontroller basic control system. Multisim and Ultiboard were used to design a basicschematic and board layout for the PCB. This has also provided a learning experience for thestudent who had never designed a PCB before; the result was a PCB that is used by students in asophomore level course.In addition to the research work, software tool, and knowledge related to several ETID courses,the student also learned how to communicate with professional engineers, search and orderspecific electronic items and PCB boards, all of which are practical skills that will be useful inthe real world. The student made significant contribution to the research project, learnedtheoretical and practical knowledge, and made contributions to a curricular development effort.

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