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Data Acquisition In The Dorm Room: Teaching Experimentation Techniques Using Lego Materials

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.317.1 - 6.317.11



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Paper Authors

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Merredith Portsmore

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Chris Rogers

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2366

Data acquisition in the dorm room: Teaching experimentation techniques using LEGO Materials

Chris Rogers, Merredith Portsmore Tufts University

Abstract Data acquisition and analysis concepts taught in introductory courses in experimentation are most effectively learned by engaging students in hands-on activities. Traditional laboratories are usually available on a limited basis to students due to supervision and hardware restrictions. We selected a set of LEGO materials to enable students in our experimental methods course to perform hands-on activities whenever and wherever they want. The fundamental components of this set of materials are the LEGO RCX, a programmable LEGO brick, with the ability to store 2000 points at up to 180 Hz and LabVIEW Student Edition. These materials, along with a set of sensors, motors, and building components, are given to students at the beginning of the semester. The hardware, the RCX and LEGO elements, is small, portable, and relatively inexpensive allowing students to use and program it in their dorm room using LabVIEW on their own computer. Projects have ranged from characterizing a spring to building and configuring a scanner. Labs addressed topics ranging from repeatability and uncertainty to Hooke’s law and Fourier transforms. Eliminating the traditional lab has allowed students more freedom in completing their assignments and allowed more hands-on challenges to be assigned. As a result, class time spent addressing data analysis. The course also addresses effective writing and presentation issues through in class and peer reviews of work.

Introduction In order for students to truly understand the physics concepts typically taught in junior-level engineering classes (fluid mechanics, heat transfer, thermodynamics, vibrations, …), they need to touch and feel. Seeing water accelerate through a contraction or the damped vibration of a beam gives them a better understanding of the physics as well as motivation to learn the physics. Unfortunately, laboratory experiences are costly to setup and maintain - both in dollars and in

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exhibition Copyright 2001, American Society of Engineering Education

Portsmore, M., & Rogers, C. (2001, June), Data Acquisition In The Dorm Room: Teaching Experimentation Techniques Using Lego Materials Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9066

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