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Laser Music - Authentic Engineering Product Development for a Real Customer

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2017 ASEE Mid Atlantic Section Spring Conference


Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

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April 7, 2017

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April 7, 2017

End Date

April 8, 2017

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Peter Raymond Stupak Raritan Valley Community College

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Peter Stupak enjoyed a 22 year career in the optical-fiber manufacturing industry living and working in 7 countries where he held a variety of hands-on technical and business-management positions. Starting as a R&D Engineer, Peter became fascinated by how a manufacturing business operates and made successive steps into engineering and manufacturing management culminating in the construction, start-up, and operation of a $50M optical fiber factory in Suzhou, China where he was the sole in-country representative of his US-based company. Following China, Peter joined the RVCC Science and Engineering Department in Fall 2014 where he instructs Physics and Engineering courses and also remains the Chief Technology Officer of the China company. He holds a BS in Chemistry and MS and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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Laser Music – Authentic Engineering Product Development for a Real Customer

P.R. Stupak, T. Strong, K. Donlan, K. Rickman, J. Rodriguez, and T. Rokoski Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg, NJ

During the Fall 2016 semester, four 2nd-year Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) Engineering students participated in an Engineering and Music-Arts collaboration as part of a hands-on “Authentic Engineering Experience” course to design, prototype, build, and deliver a real product for a real customer. Starting literally from nothing, the student team met with the Customer, a RVCC Music Professor, on September 2, 2016 where they were tasked to build a laser-music product that transmits music across a room to multiple receivers with audio-speakers using only modulated laser light. The Customer did not provide guidance to the student team regarding preferred methods to achieve the product performance goals. It was an authentic open-ended product development project. The technical and organizational challenges were significant and compressing the work into a single semester was at the limit of what was realistically achievable. The students rotated the team-leadership role weekly and developed an excellent ability to organize and manage the project, motivate the other members of the team, as well as functioning as hands-on contributors to the design, build, and testing of the product. The team converged on a product solution using two micro-computer controlled lasers mounted on a team-built servo-motor platform that projected laser beams to team-built optical-detectors mounted on six independent audio speakers positioned around a performance room. An input audio signal modulated the laser light using a team-built circuit. The Customer and Engineering student team members composed the sequence and timing of the lasers to activate the speakers. The team-members conducted the programming, testing, and debugging. The effect was to fill the performance room with music emanating from different locations and in time with the composition to “shape” the music within the room for a unique audience experience. A debut laser-music concert was given by the student team December 7, 2016 and included students, faculty, staff, and the RVCC President in attendance and featured Handel’s Halleluiah Chorus. Throughout the project, the team members were exposed to important practical skills typically learned only when in industry including: teamwork, brainstorming, project management, prototyping, responsibility, commitment, and Customer communications. The team members were treated and worked as professional Engineers. Although guided by industry-experienced staff, the overwhelming emphasis was for the student Team to reach their own designs, experience their own failures and successes in earning their own know-how, resolve their own communications and scheduling conflicts, and to respond to customer critical comments on performance. The goal was to give students authentic hands-on product development and project execution experience to relate to potential internship and professional employers.

Stupak, P. R. (2017, April), Laser Music - Authentic Engineering Product Development for a Real Customer Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Mid Atlantic Section Spring Conference, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland.

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