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Killing Two Birds With One Data Acquisition System

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Instrumentation Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.780.1 - 7.780.10

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Paper Authors

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James Mayhew

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Richard Layton

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

Main Menu Session 2559

Killing Two Birds with One Data Acquisition System

James E. Mayhew, Richard A. Layton Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


An open-circuit wind tunnel is upgraded by adding a commercially-available data acquisition system used to teach students some basic concepts of data acquisition, instrumentation, calibration, and assessment of results. Student teams were given 30-60 minutes of hands-on instruction on how to acquire data using the system. Eight student teams participated over two quarters, performing calibrations of the load cells and angle-of-attack indicator, using the results of those calibrations to find the lift and drag of a model wing, and assessing whether the calibrations and confidence intervals found by the earlier teams were reliable. All teams served as “contractors” for us, helping us improve the quality of our wind tunnel while they learned. Key results for our students: learning how to set up and use a simple data acquisition system; making us aware of sources of uncertainty in the lift and drag measurements of our wind tunnel; learning when collecting more data helps decrease uncertainty and when it does not; and gaining experience in meeting our needs as customers. In our opinion, the project is readily implemented by an individual instructor or two and should be considered intermediate-level instruction in instrumentation and data acquisition, appropriate for implementation at the junior or senior level.

I. Introduction

Upgrading undergraduate labs to incorporate modern, computer-based instrumentation and data acquisition is a common area of continuous improvement in engineering programs as faculty work to provide students with instruction in this technology. Upgrades can include the improvement of a single apparatus such as the heat exchanger upgrade described by Hinton et al.1 or the wind tunnel upgrade described in this paper, or the upgrade of several experiments within a lab such as that described by Craig and McConnell 2, or the development of a new laboratory as described by Knight and McDonald 3, to the integration of instrumentation skills across several courses and disciplines such as that described by Mahajan and others.4,5 While the work described in this paper is modest compared to program-wide innovative developments described by some of these authors, the data-acquisition application we present is a low-cost approach to giving students a valuable learning experience with an open-ended problem while enhancing our knowledge of wind tunnel experimental results with a not-too-steep learning curve for the students, the faculty, and our lab technicians.

At Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, in years past, mechanical engineering students performed a conventional experiment using our wind tunnel as part of a senior lab course. The objective was to find lift and drag polars for a scale-model wing. Students had no control over

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Mayhew, J., & Layton, R. (2002, June), Killing Two Birds With One Data Acquisition System Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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