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Modern Engineering Laboratories That Deliver

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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 and Control Applications

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.872.1 - 7.872.9

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Charles Knight

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Session 2159

Modern Engineering Laboratories That Deliver

Charles Knight Mechanical Engineering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


Electronic instrumentation and computer data acquisition has revolutionized the experimental laboratory. Universities with limited funding face major challenges in upgrading their laboratories. Industry advisors tell us they expect our engineering graduates to have modern laboratory skills. Many engineering faculty members do not possess the modern skills required to develop and/or teach laboratory curriculums required in the 21st century. This situation has developed over several decades due to universities not giving adequate emphasis and workload credit for developing and teaching labs. The senior level mechanical engineering laboratory curriculum at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) has been totally redesigned. The new curriculum is a two-hour senior level course (one-hour lecture plus a three-hour laboratory weekly) that includes both mechanical and thermal laboratory systems along with a five-week student design project. The one-hour lecture component of the course teaches modern engineering experimental concepts required to design, collect, analyze, and interpret experimental results. The three-hour laboratory includes experiments related to refrigeration, heat exchangers, thermal conduction, transient heat transfer, internal combustion engines, combustion and emission controls for boilers, linear vibrations, dynamics balancing of rotating shafts, kinematics of motion for piston-cams, and spring dynamics. The design project is an incubator for developing similar modern lab systems for other programs in the College of Engineering. Some of the new labs are operated ON-LINE using the Internet to demonstrate the full capabilities of modern computer based experimentation. LabVIEW is used for data acquisition, analysis, presentation, and control. The paper will describe (1) new curriculum considerations, (2) modern laboratory features used including running ON-LINE over the Internet, (3) scope and objectives for the new laboratory, (4) laboratory administration, (5) design project benefits, (6) ABET benefits, (7) university benefits, (8) faculty benefits, (9) student responses-outcomes, and (10) general laboratory content with two labs featured with photographs.


Most university engineering laboratories have been underfunded and neglected over the past decades. This has resulted from the university not providing adequate workload credit for development and teaching of labs as compared to that given for research [2]. These deficiencies have allowed many of our engineering labs to become obsolete as faculty interest in providing on-going laboratory development and supportive computer related skills has declined [3]. This trend must be reversed as our university industry advisors remind us that they expect our graduates to have skills that can only be learned in a laboratory setting where modern instrumentation and computers interface in performing data acquisition, analysis, control, and

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

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Knight, C. (2002, June), Modern Engineering Laboratories That Deliver Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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