System dynamics experimentation at home

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



Most Mechanical Engineering curricula include courses in system dynamics, controls, mechatronics, and vibrations. At most schools, these courses do not have a laboratory component. Even at schools that have such a component, laboratory access is often limited, and thus there is a need to increase students' laboratory experience. This paper addresses the development and initial testing of instructional material in the form of take-home software and hardware kits that can be used to perform laboratory experiments and measurements at home to illustrate system dynamics concepts. Rather than having students perform an experiment in the university laboratory, the students are given a compact, low cost software and hardware kit with which they can perform an experiment at home using only their PC. The kits are designed so that the experiments can be conducted on a provided experimental setup such as a DC motor/tachometer system or can be used to perform dynamic measurements on engineering systems that are available at home such as motor powered devices and heating/cooling systems. The take-home kit consists of three components. The first component is a hardware interface board that is built around a PIC18F4550 microcontroller which interfaces with the student's PC and with the experiment hardware. The second component is a Windows based user interface program that is loaded on the student's PC and is used to run the experiment and collect data. The third component is the actual experimental setup or the sensor system to perform the measurement. Fifty five kits have been fabricated to perform five different experiments. Two of these experiments were tested in two courses in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Rhode Island. The paper discusses the design of the kit components, the details of the experiments, as well the initial experiences gained from using this new approach for laboratory experimentation. Copyright © 2010 by ASME.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Proceedings