Title

Teaching Computing To Engineering Freshmen Through A High Tech Tools And Toys Laboratory

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

2001

Published In

ASEE Annual Conference And Exposition

Abstract

Freshman engineering courses in computing applications and programming often lack applications that are sufficiently engaging without being overwhelming. Program outputs and graphics within the reach of beginning students are often woefully primitive compared to computer graphics that are available in commercial gaming software. The students’ lack of background in engineering subjects commonly leads to applications that are simplistic, mechanical (e.g., number sorting), or heavily flavored toward mathematics or physics concepts (such as fluid friction) that student have only an uneasy grasp on. We have developed a two- quarter-hour freshman computing course taught entirely in a “High Tech Tools and Toys Laboratory,” equipped with HPIB-bus-linked test and measurement equipment, acoustic and ultrasonic transducers, and stepper-motor-controlled actuators. For a programming environment, we have selected MATLAB with the new Data Acquisition and Instrument Control Toolboxes. This environment will introduce fundamental computing concepts such as looping, conditional branching, and structured programming in a high-level language of continuing utility, but without the complications of variable typing and declarations. Early laboratory experiences include programming loops to cause stepper motors to move a flag, control through photocell feedback, and measuring acoustic velocity and distance by appropriately thresholding a reflected acoustic signal. As a final project, students write a program to control the movement of an ultrasonic sensor to image a metal target encased in an opaque gelatin package.

Conference

ASEE 2001 Annual Conference

Conference Dates

June 24-27, 2001

Conference Location

Albuquerque, NM

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