Using rockets to unify topics in an electro-mechanical engineering technology instrumentation course

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Model rockets are being used at Penn State Berks to unify topics in an electro-mechanical engineering technology instrumentation course. Model rockets provide an exciting platform on which to carry many types of devices and sensors. Throughout the semester, several types of sensors and transducers are introduced and studied. Sensors include thermistors, micromachined accelerometers and integrated pressure transducers. The physics, construction and characteristics of these sensors are discussed in the course lectures. The students also receive hands-on experience with many of the sensors through the course's laboratory experiments. Analog to digital conversion techniques and data acquisition systems are also studied in this course. To help pull together the topics and concepts discussed in class, a rocket payload data acquisition system is employed. As each device is studied, its application to the payload system is presented and discussed. A thermistor is used to measure the air temperature at various altitudes. A micromachined accelerometer is used to measure the acceleration of the rocket during launch and throughout the mission. Integrated silicon pressure transducers are used to measure both altitude and speed of the rocket. The axial speed of the rocket is determined by using the body of the rocket as a Pitot tube together with a differential pressure transducer. The timing, power management, control, measurement and data storage for the entire payload is handled by an embedded PIC™ microcontroller. A rocket launch date is set near the end of the semester with a well-publicized formal countdown commenced well in advance of the launch to help promote interest and build excitement for the event. The students are active participants in the launch and recovery operations. The raw data collected during the flight is uploaded from the payload memory for interpretation and analysis by the students. A flight performance report based on the data is submitted by each student. This paper presents and discusses the details of the rocket system, the role of the project in the course and feedback from the students involved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2006
Event113th Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, 2006 - Chicago, IL, United States
Duration: Jun 18 2006Jun 21 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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