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Stimulating Student Learning With A Novel “In House” Pulse Oximeter Design

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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

BME Technical Modules and Laboratories

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1138.1 - 10.1138.14



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Stimulating Student Learning with a Novel “In-House” Pulse Oximeter Design Jianchu Yao, M.S. and Steve Warren, Ph.D. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Kansas State University Manhattan, KS 66506, USA

Abstract This paper addresses the design of a plug-and-play pulse oximeter and its application to a biomedical instrumentation laboratory and other core Electrical Engineering courses. The low- cost, microcontroller-based unit utilizes two light-emitting diodes as excitation sources, acquires reflectance data with a photodiode, and sends these raw photo-plethysmographic data to a personal computer via an RS-232 serial link. A LabVIEW interface running on the personal computer processes these raw data and stores the results to a file. The design of this pulse oximeter is unique in two ways: the excitation sources are driven just hard enough to always keep the photodiode active (meaning the sensor can be used in ambient light), and the hardware separates out the derivatives of the red and infrared photo-plethysmograms so that it can amplify the pulsatile component of each signal to fill the range of the analog-to-digital converter. Unlike commercial pulse oximeters whose packaging hides the hardware configuration from the students, the open, unpackaged design stimulates student interest and encourages dialogue with the developer; the in-house nature of the design appeals to students. Moreover, most pulse oximeters on the market are expensive and provide users with a front panel that displays only percent oxygen saturation and heart rate. This low-cost unit provides unfiltered pulsatile data, allowing students to investigate tradeoffs between different oxygen saturation calculation methods, test different filtering approaches (e.g., for motion artifact reduction), and extract other biomedical parameters (e.g., respiration rate and biometric indicators). Time-domain data from these units have been used in linear systems and scientific computing courses to teach filtering techniques, illustrate discrete Fourier transform applications, introduce time-frequency principles, and test data fitting algorithms.

I. Introduction An optical pulse oximeter measures the intensity of light passing through heterogeneous tissue and uses variations in this light intensity (primarily resulting from the fractional volume variation of arterial blood) to calculate blood oxygen saturation. Due to its non-invasive nature, high precision in its operational range, and reasonable cost, optical pulse oximetry is widely adopted as a standard patient monitoring technique. Although its foundations date back more than fifty years,1 many facets of this technology still attract researchers. Current interest areas include motion artifact reduction,2, 3 power consumption optimization,4 low-perfusion measurements,5, 6 and issues germane to various application environments (e.g., wearability for battlefield and home care monitors).7-9 It is important for biomedical engineering students to understand the principles of pulse oximetry, hardware/software design issues, and signal processing approaches.

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

Warren, S., & Yao, J. (2005, June), Stimulating Student Learning With A Novel “In House” Pulse Oximeter Design Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14974

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