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Deconstructed Temperature Measurement Lab
Laboratory activities teach students practical skills for the engineering profession and challenge their creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking. The Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering curriculum at  was redesigned in 2019 that aims to incrementally build students’ skills in experimentation skills over a 3-course sequence that include a Mechanics Lab, Thermal-Fluids Lab, and Mechanical Engineering or Aerodynamics Engineering lab. This work in progress describes a temperature measurement activity that has evolved through a redesigned experimental laboratory curriculum.
In the original activity, students explored the design and function of thermocouples and resistance temperature detectors (RTD), first using a conventional digital multimeter and then using a LabView virtual instrument (VI) that had been designed for them. They were required to develop procedures to determine temperature from basic measurements (voltage and resistance) using standard tables or equations with specified constants. Then, they transitioned to the Virtual Instrument which process temperature through National Instruments signal conditioning devices to plot the time transient response of each sensor.
The original activity provided students no insight the design of the VI and no control of its function. Thus, a thermistor was added since thermistors have a high signal to noise ratio. Premade Vis were omitted in favor of a thermistor VI students built from scratch. This required students to (1) build a voltage divider circuit on a breadboard, (2) take in voltage signals through a National Instruments myDAQ device, and (3) write LabView code to transform those signals into temperature using manufacturer data. The result is a fundamentally different kind of activity for the students, from one focused on data collection and analysis to data acquisition and programming. The paper will investigate how these changes affect the pedagogical outcomes for the course, and whether the activity is still a good fit for the redesigned laboratory curriculum.