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Development of Learning Modules to Teach Instrumentation to Biological Systems Engineering Students Using MATLAB

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Biological and Agricultural Engineering Education Technical Session

Tagged Division

Biological & Agricultural

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.462.1 - 25.462.11



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Paper Authors


Kumar Mallikarjunan Virginia Tech

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Kumar Mallikarjunan, Associate Professor, has been involved in spiral theme-based curriculum development since 2004. His expertise is in food processes engineering, non-destructive sensing, and biomedical engineering.

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Title: Development of learning modules to teach instrumentation to biological systems engineeringstudents using MATLABKumar Mallikarjunan1, Kevin Richter1, Lauren Brookmire1 and Dan Lluch21 Biological Systems Engineering Department, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA2 The Mathworks Inc., Natick, MAThe Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) Department at Virginia Tech is undergoing significantcurriculum change through implementation of a spiral theme based curriculum. The primary focus ofthe spiral curriculum is to provide opportunities for learning in repeating themes based on authenticproblems in the profession of engineering with increasing complexity over the years. One outcome(theme) is the ability to control processes and systems and to address that we are developing learningmodules that could be implemented from freshmen to senior year in the curriculum. Majority of theactivities will be grouped into an instrumentation course and overall objective of this paper is todescribe the development of laboratory modules for measurement and control and implementation ofthe same through the course “Instrumentation in Biological Systems Engineering”. This is a core BSEcourse that all BSE students will take with an average the enrollment of 30 students. Currently MATLABis being taught at freshmen (Introduction to Engineering) and sophomore years (Numerical methodscourse). As MATLAB is being considered as one of the Engineering Software, it would be logical to usethe same for the instrumentation course as well, instead of learning new software. MATLAB can beused to communicate with data acquisition and control to measure temperature, pressure, flow andstress in biological systems and/or bioprocess operations. However, the laboratory modules that arebeing conducted are not using MATLAB and require extensive development of such activities (learningoutcomes, assessment, and implementation of the activity and hand-on exercises). The primary goal ofthe course development is to implement a meaningful learning experience for students with design ofinstrumentation for measurement and control through laboratory hands-on exercises. A repeatenforcement of concepts with increasing complexity (spiraling) with authentic problems within a courseand across the curriculum will provide a best learning environment. In this regard, using tools likeMATLAB for problem solving, numerical simulation and acquisition from and control of instrumentationsystems will make a connectedness with learning activities.We identified several laboratory modules, namely, temperature measurement using thermocouple,thermistor, pressure measurement using a pressure probe, velocity measurement using velocity probesand stress measurement using strain gauge. All measurements in the lab used breadboard connected toa data acquisition board (DAQ). The virtual instrument developed measured voltage or current and withappropriate implementation of transfer functions to give the required measurement (temperature,pressure, velocity, flow and force). Steps included development of MATLAB (.m) files and GUIs forvarious operations (data acquisition, data processing, display of results and instrument simulation). Thestudent learning progress was evaluated through pre- and post- test and the tests evaluated bothinstrumentation concepts and MATLAB applications. Based on the data collected over threeimplementation cycles, the results indicate that the student see the connectivity in using engineeringtools like MATLAB for variety of applications: algorithm development, problem solving, numericalsimulation and then for measurement and control of instruments. The presentation will provide thelessons learned in spiral theme based curriculum development with an emphasis on controllingbiological systems.

Mallikarjunan, K. (2012, June), Development of Learning Modules to Teach Instrumentation to Biological Systems Engineering Students Using MATLAB Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21220

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