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Usb Data Acquisition Units Provide New Measurement And Control Options For Engineering Technology Students

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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

Virtual Instrumentation in ET

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1382.1 - 10.1382.12



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Paper Authors

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Terrance Lovell

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Dale Litwhiler

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

USB Data Acquisition Units Provide New Measurement and Control Options for Engineering Technology Students

Dale H. Litwhiler, Terrance D. Lovell

Penn State Berks-LehighValley College


The Universal Serial Bus (USB) has become a ubiquitous technology for computer peripherals. It is available on virtually every new computer and in most cases provides a seamless connection method for a variety of consumer electronics devices such as digital cameras, scanners and printers. This ease of connection together with the inherent high data rate of USB also makes this technology very useful for data acquisition and control units. This paper presents the use of USB data acquisition units in an electromechanical engineering technology laboratory environment. Features, advantages and disadvantages of the hardware are discussed. The LabVIEW™ software tools (virtual instruments) developed to interface with the USB device are presented. Examples of sensing and control systems experiments and projects are also given.


The Universal Serial Bus (USB) has quickly found its way from consumer electronics (cameras, scanners, printers, cell phones, etc.) to laboratory equipment. The ease of connection and relatively high data rate of USB makes this technology very useful for portable data acquisition units. Several units are now available at very reasonable cost from companies such as LabJack, Measurement Computing Corporation and National Instruments. The unit currently used by engineering technology students at Penn State Berks – Lehigh Valley College is the LabJack™ U12. The LabJack U12 features are typical of the USB devices currently available. These features include multi-channel analog voltage input and output, digital I/O, event counter input and +5V power supply output (supplied from the host computer via the USB cable). This set of features makes these devices ideal for many types of engineering technology education applications.

Combining USB data acquisition hardware with the capabilities of LabVIEW™ software makes a very powerful and portable measurement and control system for laboratory/classroom experiments and hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) design projects.1 Unlike traditional ISA or PCI bus plug-in cards, the USB devices can be easily moved to different computers. When paired with a laptop computer, the system becomes completely mobile which provides many more application possibilities. The low cost of these USB data acquisition devices also makes them a viable option for students to purchase on their own for home experimentation. This capability greatly enhances the students’ learning process.2,3

The LabJack unit provides a very good interface for many types of transducers including temperature, position, velocity and acceleration/tilt sensors. Some sensors, however, require

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

Lovell, T., & Litwhiler, D. (2005, June), Usb Data Acquisition Units Provide New Measurement And Control Options For Engineering Technology Students Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15395

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