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Evaluating A Remotely Accessed Energy Laboratory

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Energy Projects and Laboratory Ideas

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.591.1 - 10.591.12



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Paper Authors

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Sarah Leach

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Heather Cooper

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Bill Hutzel

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

Session 3133

Evaluating a Remotely Accessed Energy Laboratory

William J. Hutzel, Heather L. Cooper, & Sarah E. Leach

Mechanical Engineering Technology, Purdue University


Web-based monitoring and control of instructional laboratory equipment has become common. It is less clear how well remotely accessed laboratories satisfy the learning objectives for engineering technology courses. This paper describes a web-enabled energy laboratory featuring both solar energy and HVAC systems. Although the facility is physically located on the West Lafayette campus of Purdue University, the equipment is used by students in Mechanical Engineering Technology programs located across the state of Indiana. The discussion also evaluates the performance of students who access the laboratory over the Internet, without actually seeing the equipment in person. The viability of remotely accessible laboratories has become an important issue as engineering and engineering technology programs struggle to deliver lab-based distance education courses.

Rationale for Web-Based Energy Labs

What happens when the demand for energy exceeds the supply? This is a realistic (and scary) question that highlights the need for emphasizing sustainable design in undergraduate engineering technology programs. The Energy Information Administration predicts that in just two decades the U.S. will need 175 quads (1 quad = 1015 Btu’s) to meet annual energy demands.1 That is 75% more energy than is used today and runs counter to expectations for future energy availability from traditional sources.

It is important to recognize that the energy challenge extends beyond the need for new sources. “Sustainability” is a popular term that takes a comprehensive view of energy. In addition to energy efficiency, sustainability incorporates renewable sources, life cycle costs, and environmental impacts into energy decision making. The resolution of complex issues like global warming or an over-reliance on foreign oil requires a broad sustainable view of energy resources.

Commercial buildings are one obvious point of emphasis for sustainable design. The energy for heating and cooling commercial buildings accounts for at least 40% of the annual U.S. energy consumption. Despite some improvements over the past 30 years, many commercial buildings continue to waste energy. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that U.S. businesses forego at least 20 billion dollars in operating costs each year due to inefficiencies in their buildings.2

Leach, S., & Cooper, H., & Hutzel, B. (2005, June), Evaluating A Remotely Accessed Energy Laboratory Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15245

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