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Work in Progress: The Consumer Breathalyzer as a Model Design Project in Introductory Instrumentation

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Biomedical Division Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Bryan Paul Ruddy University of Auckland

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Dr. Bryan Ruddy has a joint appointment as a research fellow at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and as a lecturer in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He received his education from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a BS, MS, and PhD all in Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Ruddy's research interests center around the development of new actuation and control systems for medical devices, and he is involved in teaching design, instrumentation, and medical device regulations.

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Poul Fønss Nielsen University of Auckland

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Poul's research focuses on using novel instrumentation, detailed computational models, and quantitative descriptions of physical processes to gain a better understanding of human physiology. Many of his projects couple mathematical modelling with innovative instrumentation to improve our ability to understand and interpret measurements of complex biological systems, subject to the constraints of well-understood physical conservation and balance laws.

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We present the design project employed in the introductory Biomedical Engineering course in Instrumentation and Design at the University of Auckland. In this course, teams of 5 to 6 second-year students with no prior hands-on experience in mechanical or electronic design work to design hand-held breath alcohol testers based on a simple resistive sensor, in parallel with a sequence of formal laboratory exercises intended to introduce them to electronic and mechanical CAD software, analog electronics prototyping, and software development in LabVIEW. The project reinforces these skills, while also developing skills in specifications development, design iteration, design for manufacturing, and design for assembly. In the context of engineering education in New Zealand, the design project is unusually open-ended, particularly at the second year level: students begin the semester with a given sensor and a prompt to develop a consumer breathalyzer, and must develop detailed design specifications, appropriate designs for 3D-printed housings, suitable signal conditioning circuitry, and a software interface based on their own research. Work is ongoing to achieve the best possible alignment between lecture and practical content in this course, and to obtain data in support of the intended outcomes of the project.

Ruddy, B. P., & Nielsen, P. F. (2016, June), Work in Progress: The Consumer Breathalyzer as a Model Design Project in Introductory Instrumentation Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27037

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