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Using Mobile Devices to Improve Engineering Education: A Process Control Laboratory Example

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2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference


Boulder, Colorado

Publication Date

March 25, 2018

Start Date

March 25, 2018

End Date

March 27, 2018

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Shellee Dyer Metro State of Denver

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Most college students routinely carry a sophisticated computer in their smart phone and/or tablet. Instead of viewing these devices as a distraction from our educational goals, it is possible to incorporate these devices into the curriculum, and thereby enhance the educational experience. This is particularly true in the context of the engineering laboratory, as most mobile devices can be viewed as a miniaturized mobile engineering laboratory, with integrated accelerometers, gyroscopes, and optical cameras. In this work, we show how the optical flash can be incorporated into a process control laboratory to enhance the learning outcomes. Our students were tasked with building a transimpedance amplifier for a photodiode detector. The students then tested these detection systems using the camera flash and commercially-available apps. These apps can modulate the flash as a strobe light, with frequencies up to a few kHz. Alternatively, there are apps available to modulate the flash to send Morse code messages. Students tested their detection systems using variable-frequency strobe modulation and via the sending and receiving of short Morse code messages. This lab demonstrates many of the curricular goals for our process control class: operational amplifiers, remote optical sensing, and analog signal conditioning. With different combination of resistors and capacitors, students can quickly see the effects of RC time constants on their Morse code transmission/receiver system. This lab could be expanded to teach basic digital acquisition and signal processing concepts when combined with an inexpensive DAQ platform. Our future goals include developing additional lab experiments that are enhanced with mobile devices, such demonstrations of flow sensing based on the device’s accelerometer.

Dyer, S. (2018, March), Using Mobile Devices to Improve Engineering Education: A Process Control Laboratory Example Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference, Boulder, Colorado.

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