June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
Measurements and Instrumentation is an upper-division course required in the Mechanical Engineering program at [blinded-affiliation] University. The course covers such concepts as laboratory instrumentation and calibration, static and dynamic signals, computer-controlled data acquisition, data analysis, documentation, and technical writing. All those concepts are important and applicable in the two-semester capstone design course that the students take before graduating, not to mention any future projects they may work on as engineers. In recent years, however, the Measurement and Instrumentation course has been receiving poor ratings in the Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET), notably in the areas of “Course Outcomes” and “Overall Evaluation”. The course is due for an update, and this paper describes an initial attempt to revive the course. Our approach was to emphasize laboratory portion of the course, which generally has been receiving positive feedback from students. In addition to the existing lab activities that were mostly carried over from the previous year and were conducted at an accelerated pace over the semester, an open-ended design project was assigned toward the end of the semester, where students were instructed to produce a test plan for a hypothetical “client”. Namely, a fictional scenario was presented, in which a biomedical professor, as a client, requested an engineer (the student) that measurement procedures be devised in order to test his research hypothesis regarding human arm movement after a stroke. More specifically, the client wished to use a MEMS accelerometer, a National Instruments data acquisition device, and LabVIEW software to quantify the maximum frequency at which the subject could flex and extend the elbow. The scenario was written partly to justify the use of inexpensive MEMS sensors that we could purchase with available funding, and the NI data acquisition devices that we already owned, thus minimizing expense. Moreover, we wanted to involve the students in the process of defining technical requirements of the project. As is often the case in rea-life situations, the client initially did not have fully articulated technical specifications to hand out to the engineers. Hence, mock “meetings with the client” were held, where the course instructor played the role of the client and the students, acting as test engineers, asked questions so they could fully understand the client’s needs and spell out the specific technical requirements. They were then tasked to design experimental procedures, collect sample data using themselves as a subject, demonstrate data reduction, and deliver a technical report. We aimed to see how students responded to the open-ended design format (including only vague technical specifications as initially given), and to identify any issues to be addressed in future implementation. The main assessment tool was the reports written by individual students. Common deficiencies and proficiencies in the reports were extracted so we could formulate instructions, guidelines, and/or structure that would help improve students’ performance, and ultimately their learning.
Aoyagi, D. (2017, June), Board # 170 : Pilot Implementation of a Task-based, Open-ended Laboratory Project using MEMS Accelerometers in a Measurements and Instrumentation Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27797
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