Modern Sensing Base Projects

The RAISE project is exposing students and teachers to modern sensing technologies via laboratory activities and hands on projects. The students are introduced to the fundamental notions of data collection using modern sensors and engaged in identifying examples of such instruments from their routine interaction with home appliances (e.g., climate control units, dish/laundry washers and dryers, refrigerators, etc.), automobiles (e.g., odometers, dashboard indicators, cruise control, active suspension, electronic ignition and fuel injection, and air bags), and public facilities (e.g., New York City subway, elevators, traffic signaling units, and airports). The students will write reports on the widespread usage of modern sensors in their own communities, e.g., hospitals, subways, and airports.

Carefully selected laboratory projects relevant at grades 9-12 are exciting and motivating students to excel in their education. The following sample projects have been developed through extensive interactions with pre-college teachers, discussions with colleagues and graduate students, on-going academic/research activities of the PIs, excellent books, and online resources. These representative projects will build a bridge between conventional STEM education and modern technology.

Experiments with Sound Sensors: A sound sensor measures the fluctuation in air pressure to provide a measure of amplitude and frequency of sound waves. Using sound sensors, students can undertake project activities such as: perform linear motion experiments using ultrasonic motion detector (e.g., distance, velocity, and acceleration measurement, simple pendulum, acceleration due to gravity g, air resistance, determination of g on an incline, projectile motion, friction, Newton's second law, etc.); measure speed of sound in various media (e.g., air, metal, cotton, etc.); perform noise pollution studies near busy streets, train tracks, or airports; show that sound decays as it travels in air; etc.

Experiments with Thermal Sensors: Temperature and heat sensors are essential in generating meaningful engineering designs. Typical thermal sensors include thermistors, resistance temperature devices, thermocouples, and thermopiles. Using thermal sensors, students can undertake project activities such as: determine the effects of salt on boiling/freezing points of water; design a prototype experiment, using an air and a carbon dioxide filled enclosure, a lamp, and temperature sensors, to validate the phenomenon of global warming; determine the effect of color on heat transfer; demonstrate heat conduction, convection, and radiation; demonstrate thermal expansion/equilibrium; etc.

Experiments with Light Sensors: Light sensors provide a sensitive measurement of light. Typical light sensors include photo-resistors, phototransistors, and infrared sensors. Using light sensors, students can undertake project activities such as: determine the effectiveness of different light insulating materials (curtains, sunglasses, color combinations, etc.); determine the effectiveness of different light reflecting materials; validate the inverse square law of light decay; demonstrate reflection, refraction, transmission, and absorption of light; etc.

Experiments in Living Environment: Using humidity, CO2, O2, pH, temperature, gas pressure, and light sensors, students can undertake project activities such as: determine the effects of light, water, and temperature on transpiration; study plant and cellular respiration; validate that yeast fermentation produces CO2 and consumes O2; determine the effects of temperature on enzyme action, respiration, and fermentation; determine the effect of light on plant growth/pigmentation; determine the effects of body posture and exercise on heart rate; etc.

All project activities utilize low-cost modern data acquisition tools. In particular, with the advent of high-speed, low-cost computing, a diverse array of hardware for real-time data collection has recently become available. For example, Vernier Software and Technology offers data acquisition hardware for calculators and computers. Similarly, Pico Technology and PASCO offer data acquisition hardware for computers. Such data acquisition hardware can be effortlessly interfaced with a wide variety of sensors and probes. Furthermore, a high-level graphical user interface environment can be used to monitor and plot sensor data. These tools also allow spreadsheet and LabVIEW support for advance data analysis. We will also use the low-cost Basic STAMP microcontroller and the associated "STAMP in Class" curriculum (e.g., Earth Measurements) to develop project activities for students. Using our experience in developing a Web-Enabled Mechatronics/Process Control Laboratory, we will design and deploy pre-college level web-enabled laboratory modules with carefully integrated hardware/software security features. This activity will promote cross feeding of laboratory innovation among schools and collaborative learning among students.