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Sensors For A Weather Balloon A Classroom Design Experience

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.385.1 - 1.385.6

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Paper Authors

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Jerry Watts

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George E. Piper

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Carl E. Wick

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Svetlana Avramov-Zamurovic

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

Sensors for a Weather Balloon - a Classroom Design Experience

Carl Wick, George Piper, Jerry Watts and Svetlana Avramov-Zamurovic United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland 21402

Introduction Undergraduate engineering students need meaningful design experiences in their course work. These experiences are necessary to allow them to see the practical implications of their courses, to consider the interplay between system components, and to also view external forces, economics, safety, environmental impact, and cost in away that is not outside their own background. Accreditation organizations, ABET is particular, now require a “design continuum” in engineering programs. The continuum will take students through simple design exercises in lower-level courses and bring them through successively more challenging experiences to a “capstone” design shortly before graduation. We believe that this is a very good and necessary path that all engineering students should take to reach competence in their trade.

We have also found that it is very diffkult to find realistic, simple, unconstrained design exercises for lower- level engineering courses. In this paper we outline a project that was used in a junior-level sensors course for systems engineering majors. The project required each student to design a portion of the systems needed to successfi.dly complete a balloon-borne environment sensing mission. In this mission a weather balloon is to carry a student designed instrument package to its maximum altitude, where the balloon will burst and the package will return to earth safely. Data gathered during the mission may be recorded in the instrumentation package for later play-back or it may be telemetered back to earth receiving stations. We have found this type of exercise to be an excellent vehicle for discussing project management and the tradeoffs that are often necessary between cost, weight and complexity. In execution the students find that a relatively simple concept can be very complex, and enjoy the freedom to express themselves through original, and in some cases novel, designs. The paper design may lead to actual construction of the vehicle and launch in later course work, or a student or student team will adopt the project for their own capstone design experience.

The course that this design exercise was used in is a course in the Systems Engineering department of the United States Naval Academy that provides students with theoretical and practical aspects of closed-loop control. Fundamentals of statistical measurements, sensors, motors, motor drivers, and closed-loop control are all subjects that are introduced in the classroom and reinforced in the laboratory through several practical experiments. Thus, the subject matter of the course provides a near perfect environment for an applied design project. Furthermore, all of our system engineering majors know that they must successfully complete a design project of their own during their senior year. They are often uncertain of the steps they need to take for this major design effort, so the project provides a welcome early practice session.

Weather Balloon Project Objectives To begin the assignment, the students were told that they will be designing an environmental sensing

?@xti; 1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings ‘O.+,yyy’:

Watts, J., & Piper, G. E., & Wick, C. E., & Avramov-Zamurovic, S. (1996, June), Sensors For A Weather Balloon A Classroom Design Experience Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

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