From Research Lab to Product: Lab Automation Course to Enable Rapid Product Development

Pennsylvania State University, 2006 - $25,000

The Electronics and Computer Services Department in the College of Engineering at Penn State University recently conducted an informal survey of students and faculty across various disciplines to assess their virtual instrumentation needs. The results indicated that the students need hands-on courses that would cover interfacing computers of various form factors to a wide array of sensors, transducers and subsystems. To that end, faculty at PSU are using NCIIA funding to develop a new pilot course, Lab Automation and Rapid Product Development.

The pilot will be offered as a senior-level special topics course in spring 2007. Through the course, students will learn to: 1) identify processes and tasks in the research lab that can be automated; 2) define the product requirements; 3) determine how to meet design constraints and optimize system performance; 4) determine hardware and software requirements; 5) use small computer-based testing, measurement and automation systems; 6) work in teams; 7) develop communication skills; and 8) understand the process of working from idea to enterprise. Several teams will be affiliated with the Penn State chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World and work on appropriate engineering solutions for problems in developing countries.