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High Altitude Radiation Detector (HARD): Integration of Undergraduate Research into Senior Design and Lessons Learned

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Projects in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.660.1 - 23.660.14

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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): Integration of Undergraduate Research into Senior Design and Lessons Learned ASEE 2013 - Electrical and Computer Engineering Division AbstractIn this paper, we present an interdisciplinary undergraduate research project conducted as part ofan ECE senior design. The focus of the research project was on aspects of physics, particularlyon arrivals of cosmic rays. In physics, it is known that Earth’s magnetic field deflects cosmic‐raytrajectories from a straight line, and since primary cosmic rays are positively charged, morecosmic rays approach from the west than from the east. In the field of studying cosmic rays, this“east‐west” asymmetry has been thoroughly investigated at ground level and even observed inthe atmospheric neutrino flux. With some previous balloon launch experience, the primaryproject goal was set to explore how this angular asymmetry changes with altitude, as the cosmicray flux transitions from mostly secondary particles near the ground level to mostly primarycosmic rays near balloon-float altitudes.In collaboration with one of the NASA facilities and other universities, a sophisticatedexperimental payload was designed to study how the intensity of cosmic rays changes withaltitude as well as conduct a high‐quality, long‐exposure measurement at balloon-float altitudesfor more than 10 hours. In this experiment, instead of simply measuring the intensity ofvertically incident cosmic rays, the proposed project aimed to measure cosmic ray intensity frommultiple arrival directions, providing a more complete picture of the high‐altitude radiationenvironment caused by cosmic rays. The payload was designed by following a top-down designapproach: initially establishing engineering requirements of the payload for the experiment,carrying out functional decomposition, and actual laboratory design of subsystems by studentteam members enrolled in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program at theUniversity. Figure 1 shows the functional block diagram of the payload for the experiment.Details of individual subsystems will be further described in the full paper. Figure 2 shows (a)the lab testing and verification environment and (b) the completed payload prior to the thermaland vacuum flight readiness test at the collaborating NASA facility.The project team consisted of six undergraduate students (three seniors and three sophomores)from the ECE department and two faculty advisors from the ECE and Physics departments. Withthe ballooning campaign successfully completed in late August 2012, this paper will discussproject design, team structure and collaboration, experimental details, and lessons learned,particularly on promoting student learning and improving its outcomes. Figure 1. Overall functional block diagram for cosmic ray detection  (a) Lab setting for testing and verification  (b) Completed Payload  Figure 2. Payload design

Lee, W., & Conklin, N. B. (2013, June), High Altitude Radiation Detector (HARD): Integration of Undergraduate Research into Senior Design and Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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