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High Altitude Radiation Detector (HARD): An Exemplary Means to Stimulate Electrical and Computer Engineering Undergraduate Research

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Projects in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.664.1 - 24.664.13



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Paper Authors


Wookwon Lee Gannon University

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Wookwon Lee, P.E. received the B.S. degree in electronic engineering from Inha University, Korea, in 1985, and the M.S. and D.Sc. degrees in electrical engineering from the George Washington University, Washington, DC, in 1992 and 1995, respectively. He is currently on the faculty of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Gannon University, Erie, PA. Prior to joining Gannon, he had been involved in various research and development projects in industry and academia for more than 15 years.

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Nicholas B. Conklin Gannon University

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Nicholas B. Conklin received a B.S. in applied physics from Grove City College in 2001, and a Ph.D. in physics from Penn State University in 2009. He is currently an assistant professor in the Physics Department at Gannon University, Erie, PA.

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High Altitude Radiation Detector (HARD): An Exemplary Means to Stimulate Electrical and Computer Engineering Undergraduate Research Electrical and Computer Engineering Division AbstractThis paper discusses an interdisciplinary research project that has recently completed a two-yearcycle for design, test, integration, and revision of a near-space ballooning payload named theHigh-altitude Radiation Detector (HARD). The scientific objectives of the project were tomeasure the “east‐west” asymmetry in cosmic-ray arrival direction at varying altitudes betweenthe Earth’s surface and near space, as well as to study how the intensity of cosmic rays changeswith altitude, including a high‐quality, long‐exposure measurement at balloon-float altitudes.Correspondingly, the technical objectives were the implementation and successful operation ofvarious electronic instruments to detect cosmic rays and collect data for the scientific objectives.In collaboration with one of the Space Grant Consortia funded by NASA and one of NASA’sballooning facilities in North America, the HARD 2012 and HARD 2013 were launched to analtitude of about 125,000 feet for approximately 10 hours of flight in Sept. 2012 and Sept. 2013,respectively.The HARD 2012 was initially designed by following a top-down design approach: firstestablishing engineering requirements of the payload for the experiment, carrying out functionaldecomposition, and then actual laboratory design of subsystems by student team membersenrolled in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program at the University. Based onthe data collected during its flight and subsequent analysis of the HARD 2012 operation for theintended experiments, a completely new second unit, the HARD 2013, was constructed to tackletechnical issues in the HARD 2012. These subsystem revisions resulted in successful operationduring flight, and the desired scientific data was collected. The project teams consisted of sixundergraduate students for the HARD 2012 and four undergraduate students for the HARD 2013,all from the ECE department, and two faculty advisors from the ECE and Physics departments.Figure 1 shows the functional block diagram and physical specifications of the HARD. Intendedto offer an exemplary means to stimulate undergraduate research and integration of research andeducation, in the full paper we will 1) present detailed descriptions and key revision points ofindividual subsystems, 2) identify key technical knowledge required for a successful design ofthe subsystems in reference to specific ECE course contents, 3) present and discuss assessmentresults on how these extracurricular project activities facilitate improving the student learningoutcomes defined by the ABET (i.e., “a through k” student-learning outcomes), and 4) brieflydescribe how the HARD 2013 is being used to develop further research opportunities and attractnew members (primarily sophomores and freshmen) to undergraduate research, as well as thestrategies to prepare new members to play key roles in future research opportunities.   (a) Functional block diagram   (b) Physical specifications – front viewFigure 1. High-altitude Radiation Detector (HARD)

Lee, W., & Conklin, N. B. (2014, June), High Altitude Radiation Detector (HARD): An Exemplary Means to Stimulate Electrical and Computer Engineering Undergraduate Research Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20555

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