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Integration of Sensors and Low-Cost Microcontrollers into the Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Design Sequence

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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


Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.789.1 - 23.789.13



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Paper Authors


Horacio Vasquez University of Texas, Pan American

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Dr. Horacio Vasquez is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA), in Edinburg, Texas. His current research interests are in the areas of control systems, mechatronics, measurements and instrumentation, and engineering education.

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Arturo A Fuentes University of Texas, Pan American

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Integration of Sensors and Low-Cost Microcontrollers into the Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Design Sequence AbstractIn most undergraduate engineering degree plans the engineering design curricula includes classessuch as Introduction to Engineering, Statics, Dynamics, and Mechanics of Solids. Usually thesespecific classes do not have laboratory components that students take to assist their learningexperience. This paper presents the development and implementation of an educational low-costdevice/tool that can be set up and used by the students in and out of their engineering classes toassist their learning. The goal of this project was to develop and integrate cost-effectivemicrocontrollers and sensors to create data acquisition systems and use them in multiple coursesto provide students with interdisciplinary experiences to understand concepts as part ofengineering systems. Cost-effective tools and open-source software allow minimum cost; thuseach student could acquire his/her own system to use at school or at home. Specifically, theauthors developed and tested the data acquisition systems based on an inexpensivemicrocontroller (like a PIC or Arduino) and with different sensors. Then, the authors developedhands-on activities with the system for courses such as Statics, Dynamics, Introduction toEngineering, Measurement and Instrumentation, and Mechanics of Materials. Preliminaryimplementation results are presented. The initial implementation was based on students’recommendations in an effort to determine in which courses the developed system could makethe best contribution and impact. Once a particular system was developed and tested, it wasrelatively easy to adapt to any compatible sensor. The authors were able to perform experimentsusing their own computers connected to a low-cost USB data acquisition system and to practicaland compatible sensors to measure force, stress, strain, temperature, or another physical propertyof interest. Positive results in student motivation were observed. Special features such as wirelesscommunication and I2C sensors are part of an ongoing project that will be incorporated to thesystem in the near future.

Vasquez, H., & Fuentes, A. A. (2013, June), Integration of Sensors and Low-Cost Microcontrollers into the Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Design Sequence Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19803

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