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Shelving The Hardware: Developing Virtual Laboratory Experiments

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Web-Based Laboratory Experiments

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1115.1 - 10.1115.13



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Paper Authors

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Keith Koenig

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Emmanuel Okoro

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Viva Austin

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Thomas Hannigan

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

Shelving the Hardware: Developing Virtual Laboratory Experiments T. Hannigan, K. Koenig, V. Austin, E. Okoro Mississippi State University


Time is at a premium in a crowded aerospace engineering curriculum, and offerings of laboratory classes in lock step have become a stumbling block to students who deviate from the traditional paths. Students who participate in cooperative education programs, internships, and those who transfer into the upper division from other disciplines and colleges have often suffered graduation delays from limited course offerings. These delays often arose from prerequisites for and sequencing of laboratory courses. However, a survey of activities typically accomplished in the laboratory environment revealed that many of the experiments could be accomplished in virtual fashion. Virtual equipment can be accessed, and virtual instruments can be used to make measurements, with little difference from the experimental setups used previously. Typical physical laboratories utilized computers for all data acquisition and control, with development of virtual instrumentation as a primary focus and LabVIEW as a programming environment. Thus extensive and expensive benches of signal generator, measurement, and analysis equipment have been supplanted by inexpensive yet fully capable virtual instruments, even in the physical laboratory spaces. An introductory course in laboratory fundamentals is being offered on-line as a test to both traditional and non-traditional students. Plans are formulated to extend the utility of offering such laboratory exercises to other classes as well. Traditional classroom instruction is being supplemented with laboratory assignments tailored to the individual subject matter, and made available through a standard web interface, WebCT. The primary purpose of this work is to document the continued progress made in updating the MSU aerospace engineering degree program.


As technology has developed and matured, particularly with regards to computers and related peripherals, engineering curricula have been expanded and revised to encompass new fields of knowledge. In an effort to insure that our students possess the necessary skills to be of benefit to employers, and to keep them at the forefront of the applicant list for narrowing numbers of entry- level engineers, many changes have been made in our program over the past decade. As courses were added to cover newer technologies, while desiring to keep the depth and breadth of the aerospace engineering education, an increasing emphasis on analytical and computational methods of problem solving was inevitable. It comes as no surprise then, that with the capabilities and speed of computers being extended almost exponentially, their use would be emphasized in order to keep up with the technology and to prepare the students to extend its reach.

Even with recent revisions of the curriculum detailed by Rais-Rohani1, and with the addition of introductory courses to insure that the computer initiatives continued to benefit the students by

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Koenig, K., & Okoro, E., & Austin, V., & Hannigan, T. (2005, June), Shelving The Hardware: Developing Virtual Laboratory Experiments Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14183

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