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Teaching Data Acquisition Using Laptop Computers

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Innovative & Computer-Assisted Lab Study

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1169.1 - 9.1169.6



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Paper Authors

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John Gumaer

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

Session Number 1426

Teaching Data Acquisition Using Laptop Computers

John A. Gumaer Northern Michigan University


This paper presents an inexpensive technique of using laptop computers to teach data acquisition skills to technology students. These students possess a laptop computer and have completed one semester of Visual Basic programming. The approach presented in this paper allows students to develop and integrate their understanding of both hardware and software concepts related to data acquisition. The main tools used are a laptop PC, parallel port adapter, and Visual Basic software. The parallel port adapter provides access to the parallel port of a laptop computer and is easily built by students. Students construct circuits for basic digital and analog input and output sources. These circuits interface to the laptop parallel port through the parallel port adapter. Students create Visual Basic applications to access and control the parallel port to acquire data. Using this setup, students are able to perform a variety of data acquisition and control experiments. The benefits of this approach are that students are able to develop their own data acquisition system and understand how the hardware and software work together. Used in conjunction with laptop computers, this technique is very portable and allows students to perform experiments in class and across campus without being tied to a data acquisition laboratory. By avoiding custom data acquisition hardware and software, the costs for this technique are minimal.


This paper presents an inexpensive technique of using laptop computers to teach data acquisition skills to technology students. Traditionally, data acquisition was taught in a dedicated lab using desktop computers equipped with specialized data acquisition adapter cards. These adapter cards permitted interfacing analog and digital signal sources to the desktop computer. Beginning with the Fall 1999 semester, Northern Michigan University introduced a program in which all incoming freshmen were equipped with laptop computers. By 2002, students in upper division engineering technology classes all had laptop computers. The laptops in use were Intel Pentium- class machines running either Microsoft Windows Me or Microsoft Windows XP as the operating system. All laptops had the Microsoft Office suite and Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 installed on them.

One goal was to utilize these computers to improve the student learning experience in a data acquisition course without significantly increasing the cost of course delivery. Another goal was

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Gumaer, J. (2004, June), Teaching Data Acquisition Using Laptop Computers Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13763

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