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Computer Interfacing to Real-world: Low-cost Approach

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Technology Pedagogy 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Rungun Nathan Pennsylvania State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Rungun Nathan is a professor and program chair for the mechanical engineering in the division of engineering at Penn State Berks. He got his BS from University of Mysore, DIISc from Indian Institute of Science, MS from Louisiana State University and PhD from Drexel University. He has worked in Electronic Packaging in C-DOT (India) and then as a Scientific Assistant in the Robotics laboratory at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. He worked as a post-doc at University of Pennsylvania in Haptics and Virtual Reality. His research interests are in the areas of unmanned vehicles particularly flapping flight and frisbees, mechatronics, robotics, MEMS, virtual reality, and haptics, and teaching with technology. He has ongoing research in flapping flight, Frisbee flight dynamics, lift in porous material and brain traumatic injury He is an active member of APS (DFD), ASEE and ASME and reviewer for several ASME, IEEE and ASEE, FIE conferences and journals.

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Today microcontrollers and computers have changed the way human interact and deal with the mechanized and automated world. Almost every home appliance, the car, vending machines, etcetera incorporate sensors which gather information, use a computer or a microcontroller to process the information and finally react to the information with the use of an actuator. Many purely mechanical systems have been replaced by electromechanical systems: for example the speedometer and odometer in most cars, car window openers, wrist watches etcetera, but the interesting part of building and interfacing them is slowly lost on the new generation of students. Using sensors and sensor data in engineering classrooms is becoming increasingly beneficial for engineering education. It motivates students to pursue science and engineering disciplines as well as associated career paths. Lessons in the classroom quickly become more interesting and engaging. Current students are generally are not tinkerers like many engineering students of the past and lack a deeper appreciation for these devices. In addition, the industry approach of plug unit out and replace, instead of repair has only made the problem worse. While there is tremendous attention from both academia and industry in these devices and machines, there is a general time lag in bringing these technologies to the students in a personal way. The high costs of laboratory equipments, and the short life span of these equipments before they need upgrades to stay current, hold back many engineering and technology programs from offering courses in these areas. To overcome the cost and stop the race for upgrades, the author designed a course titled “Computerized Input-Output”, which introduced students to the exciting world of interfacing sensors and devices to a computer and programming them to exhibit intelligence, while learning about sensors, measurements, programming, Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) and other important skills that will be very desirable in the modern industry. A DAQ is used to interface the sensor/actuator world to the computer. A low cost DAQ, National Instrument’s NI USB-6001 is required equipment in place of an equal priced textbook for each student. NAMED UNIVERSITY student’s have an install option for Labview. In addition the DAQ will be used in subsequent semesters for other classes, hence adding value to the investment in student learning. It is also hoped that the students will use this to experiment and tinker outside the class and bring in valuable hands on experience which is lacking in many students. This paper discusses and presents the syllabus, explanation of how the topics were chosen, along with the list of experiments used, list of components with sources, feedback obtained from student survey and faculty perspective on the implementation of the course. The author hopes that this will help faculty and staff from other colleges and universities in taking a similar approach to Measurements, DAQ and experimentation to learning about computer interface, programming and GUI development. In particular this paper will discuss the development of some of the exercises and projects used in the class to develop student’s interest in hands on experience that may lead to outside the classroom experimentation. This approach also proved very helpful when all classes were held virtually online due to the pandemic.

Nathan, R. (2021, July), Computer Interfacing to Real-world: Low-cost Approach Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36828

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