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Mems Accelerometer Investigation In An Undergraduate Engineering Technology Instrumentation Laboratory

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Instrumentation and Measurement Innovation

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.867.1 - 15.867.10



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Paper Authors


Dale Litwhiler Pennsylvania State University, Berks

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Dale H. Litwhiler is an Associate Professor at Penn State, Berks Campus in Reading, PA. He
received his B.S. from Penn State University (1984), his M.S. from Syracuse University (1989)
and his Ph.D. from Lehigh University (2000) all in electrical engineering. Prior to beginning his
academic career in 2002, he worked with IBM Federal Systems and Lockheed Martin
Commercial Space Systems as a hardware and software design engineer.

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

MEMS Accelerometer Investigation in an Undergraduate Engineering Technology Instrumentation Laboratory


Accelerometers that are manufactured using micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) techniques are becoming ubiquitous in many consumer and industrial products. The MEMS process allows for electro-mechanical devices to be produced very inexpensively. Because the MEMS accelerometer package also integrates the signal conditioning electronics, these devices can be implemented quite easily in many designs. For these reasons, it is important that engineering technology students become familiar with the operating principles and characteristics of MEMS accelerometer devices that they will likely encounter in their careers. As part of an undergraduate engineering technology instrumentation course, students at Penn State Berks investigate the characteristics and principles of operation of some low-g accelerometers. One device (±1.5g) is used as a tilt sensor. Such a device is very common in handheld consumer electronic devices to sense its orientation with respect to the earth’s horizon. A plethora of applications can be built around this type of spatial orientation information. Familiar examples include display orientation (portrait or landscape) for video devices, and gaming control such as the Nintendo® Wii system. A second device (±40g) is investigated for its applications in vehicle motion measurement. Hands-on experience with these devices yields some unusual behavior (in both the students and the devices). This is the students’ first encounter with electronic devices that are sensitive to their position on the laboratory bench. Simple apparatus are used to characterize and verify performance of the devices. This paper presents the laboratory apparatus and software as well as examples of assignments and student data analyses.


Accelerometers have many practical uses in common consumer electronic devices. Micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) manufacturing techniques have made accelerometers very inexpensive, compact and easy to incorporate into products. Game systems such as the Nintendo® Wii use accelerometers in the handheld controller to determine its position and motion.1 This information is used by the game to create very realistic user interactions with the game. The Apple iPhone® and iTouch® devices also use accelerometers to determine the orientation of the device for use by applications such as games or just to rotate the display.2 Some accelerometer applications are transparent to the user such as those used to detect freefall in devices containing spinning hard disk drive storage. When freefall is sensed, the hard disk drive read/write head is positioned to protect the storage device from the impact may be eminent.3

Litwhiler, D. (2010, June), Mems Accelerometer Investigation In An Undergraduate Engineering Technology Instrumentation Laboratory Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16392

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