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Experiments On The Cheap: Using A Student Data Acquisition System

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.191.1 - 2.191.6



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Christopher G. Braun

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

Session 1532

Experiments on the Cheap: Using a Student Data Acquisition System

Christopher G. Braun Colorado School of Mines


The cost of operating a dedicated laboratory facility for student educational use is large in comparison to operating a general purpose lecture room. Laboratory uses require the setup of dedicated equipment, safety equipment and significant storage, often making the room unsuitable for other purposes. Additionally, hands-on laboratory projects require more time in class per credit hour than lecture – typically 3 hours in lab per week per lab credit hour compared 3 hours in lecture per week for 3 credit hours. Likewise, the costs for faculty and teaching assistants are far greater per lab credit hour than for lecture.

However, learning by doing is imperative for all engineering students. Just as I would never consider a surgeon competent without any hands-on experience, I believe that all engineers must have experience in the real-world skills to implement their designs. For many of our students, laboratory and capstone projects are where the book learning becomes active knowledge by understanding how to make use of their education.

The traditional engineering laboratory requires students to meet three hours a week in a room. There they work on a very focused laboratory project for one to several weeks and then move on to the next laboratory project. While labs often require outside work, most require students to spend the entire lab time in the laboratory classroom for instruction and use of lab equipment.

Taking the Laboratory Out of the Classroom

A completely different approach is to take the laboratory project out of the classroom. This approach is discussed by Hagler1 who developed the term “hardware homework.” The limiting feature is the need for an experimental setup, typically consisting of a system under test, some type of data gathering/control equipment, and, often, a computer. Many of these systems under test are (or could be) relatively simple, inexpensive and portable. Further, these days most students have access to or own their own computer. While typical data acquisition system are too expensive for wide use by students outside of lab, there are new alternatives, such as the CSM “Student Data Acquisition System.”2,3

Braun, C. G. (1997, June), Experiments On The Cheap: Using A Student Data Acquisition System Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6562

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