Integrating a Smartphone-Based Vibration Experiment into an Engineering Course

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



A smartphone coupled with a low-cost physical system can be used to conduct a meaningful at-home engineering experiment that provides an environment for experiential and personalized learning. The objective of this study is to improve students' understanding of the response of a dynamic system through integrating an at-home experiment into a lecture-only class using a smartphone as the measurement system. The paper reports on the use of the linear acceleration sensor in smartphones to conduct an at-home experiment to measure the vibration characteristics of a cantilever beam in a junior-level, systems dynamic course. All students in the class were provided with a spring steel beam and a C-shaped clamp. The students mounted their own phone at the end of the beam, and an app was used to record the acceleration of the beam for three different beam lengths. From the experimental data, the students were asked to determine the damped natural frequency of the beam and compare it to theory. The study was performed over three years with a total of 302 students. Data analysis of the short pre and post quiz conducted with the experiment showed that the at-home experiment had a positive effect on students' understanding of key concepts. Furthermore, written and verbal comments from the students showed that the students valued the learning they got from performing this experiment.

Publication Title

2020 9th IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference, ISEC 2020