Haptic Interfaces for a LabVIEW-based System Dynamics Course

TitleHaptic Interfaces for a LabVIEW-based System Dynamics Course
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2006
AuthorsBowen, K, O'Malley, MK
Conference NameASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Conference LocationChicago, IL, United States
KeywordsComputer programming languages; Electromechanical devices; Engineering education; Learning systems; Mechanical engineering; Students; Virtual reality

Too often in undergraduate mechanical engineering courses, the content of laboratory exercises is not well coordinated with course content, and the exercises are unrelated to each other. As a result, students have a difficult time grasping the "big picture" themes. This project at Rice University seeks to improve the effectiveness of laboratory exercises in a required undergraduate mechanical engineering system dynamics course via student-centered learning and laboratory topics featuring haptic paddles, devices that allow users to interact via the sense of touch with virtual environments. One outcome of these improvements is a cohesive set of laboratory experiments using the haptic paddles as a single experimental test bed for multiple experiments. The Haptic Paddle exercises are unique because they allow the students to analyze and build their own haptic interface, or force-reflecting system. The students are able to see many subsets of mechanical engineering come together in a series of exercises, including assembly, system analysis, calibration, system modeling, and dynamics. Finally, a key advantage to the haptic paddle labs is that they tie closely with the course material. This paper describes the development of haptic paddle laboratory kits and associated National Instruments LabVIEW virtual instrumentation to support the adaptation of laboratory experiments for a required undergraduate system dynamics course at Rice University. The laboratory experiments use simple haptic interfaces, devices that allow the students to interact via the sense of touch with virtual environments. A clear benefit of this laboratory series is that students study the haptic paddle as a real electromechanical system in addition to using the haptic paddle as a tool to interact with virtual mechanical systems. The haptic paddle hardware has been modified to improve robustness, and the LabVIEW graphical programming language is used for data acquisition and control throughout the laboratory series. The paper will present some details of the laboratory components, and preliminary assessment of learning outcomes using this laboratory series compared to more traditional modular labs used in prior years. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2006.

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