Asee peer logo

Virtual Instruments In An Undergraduate Environmental Engineering Laboratory

Download Paper |


1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.520.1 - 1.520.11

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Monroe L. Weber-Shirk

author page

Leonard W. Lion

Download Paper |

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

Session 2526

Virtual Instruments in an Undergraduate Environmental Engineering Laboratory

Monroe L. Weber-Shirk, Leonard W. Lion Cornell University

Abstract Cornell’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) is developing a new undergraduate laboratory course in Environmental Engineering. This course includes innovative experiments related to recent or ongoing research conducted by CEE environmental faculty. A goal during course implementation was to integrate computerized instrument control and data acquisition without making computers and software the course focus. This would enable students to concentrate on theory and application of physical, chemical, and biological processes with minimal time spent learning how to use new software packages or instruments. To achieve these goals in a cost effective and timely manner we developed customized “Virtual Instruments” (VIs) with a similar design for multiple instruments. Software was written using LabVIEW™ to control and acquire data from a UV-Visible spectrophotometer, a gas chromatograph, a 3-axes positioning system, and a pH-ion meter that was also used to measure conductivity and dissolved oxygen. The first semester of student use in both the new undergraduate environmental laboratory course and a graduate level laboratory course confirmed the value of the new computerized instrumentation. While in the laboratory, students were able to monitor time varying processes and perform data analyses that previously were not feasible. The features of VI’s that were developed for student use are discussed in this paper.

Introduction Laboratory experience is a crucial element in the education of engineers. However, implementation of successful undergraduate engineering laboratory programs is hampered by inadequate and antiquated equipment, lack of appropriately equipped space, and inadequate participation of qualified engineering faculty. Until recently these obstacles had prevented Cornell’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering from offering an undergraduate course in Environmental Engineering. However, strong interest from the faculty combined with institutional support and funding from industry and National Science Foundation have made it possible to create a new undergraduate laboratory course in Environmental Engineering. Creation of the new course provided opportunity to consider alternatives for course design and implementation. Our goals were: to provide an educational environment in which students with different learning styles could interact with the course material in different ways . to develop laboratories that illustrate current environmental issues and provide a context for teaching

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Weber-Shirk, M. L., & Lion, L. W. (1996, June), Virtual Instruments In An Undergraduate Environmental Engineering Laboratory Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 1996 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015