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Enhancing Engineering Education With Web Based Instrumentation Design Projects

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Instrumentation and Measurements: Innovative Course Development

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.667.1 - 12.667.11

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Paper Authors


Matthew Heun Calvin College

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Matthew K. Heun received his Ph.D. in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was a staff engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and a Senior Engineer at Global Aerospace Corporation in Altadena, California before joining the Engineering Department at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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

Enhancing Engineering Education with Web-based Instrumentation Design Projects Abstract

An engineering instrumentation design project assignment has been enhanced and improved using distributed internet-based data acquisition systems and web-based data dissemination. Students design, develop, and install an instrumentation system to collect data on an aspect of the operation of an on-campus building. Past instrumentation systems have included measurements of airflow through ducts, power consumed by vending machines, and energy waste in an overheated room. Measurement data is collected by National Instruments FieldPoint® data acquisition systems, analyzed by National Instruments LabVIEW® software, and published to the World Wide Web by a customized publishing system. LabVIEW® software provides student design flexibility for public presentation of their system data. Raw and reduced data are saved, once per minute, by LabVIEW® as jpeg snapshots of the project’s Virtual Instrument front panel. Students construct a website for their project using a customized weblog authoring system. The dynamic jpeg images are automatically uploaded to the weblog, thereby providing real-time readouts of building data. A design proposal, complete with schedule and costs, is submitted and reviewed by the professor. Periodic progress reviews and a final review are conducted. Because students interact with their immediate environment, because data are publicly available on the internet, and because they are involved with cutting-edge technology, students display increased levels of personal investment and self-motivation in the projects. Individualized project assessment by the professor provides opportunities to discuss the design process, the differences between as-designed and as-built systems, the importance of meeting cost and schedule constraints, and the challenges of developing continuously-operating, real- world systems.

1 Introduction

Calvin College’s Engineering Building was designed in the mid-1990s with the goal that the building itself should be a learning tool for students. One way that the Calvin College Enginereing Department achieves that goal is by assigning groups of students in the Engineering Instrumentation class (ENGR 382) to design and implement systems that provide real-time output of building data. In recent years, National Instruments LabVIEW® software1 and FieldPoint® data acquisition hardware2 have provided the data acquisition and analysis infrastructure for the student projects, making it possible to display real-time data on the internet.

This paper describes (a) the design project assignment given to the ENGR 382 students, (b) the web-based authoring system developed to support the design projects, (c) past student projects, including one in detail, (d) the educational outcomes from the design projects, and (e) challenges to installing and maintaining the students’ instrumentation systems.

2 Design project assignment

The objective of the design project assignment is for students to gain experience with design of an instrumentation system, selection of sensors, installation of sensors, and integration of the

Heun, M. (2007, June), Enhancing Engineering Education With Web Based Instrumentation Design Projects Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii.

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