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Upper division physics lab -- Project ideas

  1. Dec 13, 2014 #1
    As an experimentalist, I am very excited to be taking my first upper division physics lab next semester! The course covers basic electronics (filters, diodes, transistors, op-amps, analog & digital circuits, D/A conversion, and LabView Programming, etc.) and measurement techniques with an approved Final Project of your choice. I was hoping to get some good ideas from the online physics community on what I might do my final project on. I've listed below some of the final project suggestions for the class to give you an idea of what previous people have done, but I'm trying to find something new/original to do. I'm interested in exploring experimental particle physics and the development of particle detectors in particular so any ideas that would relate to that area or ideas you think would teach me a lot in general about instrumentation and measurement would be awesome, but I'm open to any suggestions. I also have and Intel Edison starter kit plus ( https://software.intel.com/en-us/iot/devkit [Broken] ) that I've been playing around with that I'd like to incorporate as well if possible. Let me know if you have any ideas. Thanks!

    Previous projects:

    Whistler Receiver/Recorder:
    Detect the signals from Global Electrical activity. May require a field trip. Automatic ON switch.
    Bat Detector/Recorder: Covert ultrasonic bat sonar to audio. Heterodyne analog or digital. Automatic on switch.
    Ultrasonic Voice Transmission: Voice transmission above the range of human hearing. Transmitter Receiver/Annoy your dog! (Ask staff for Ultrasonic transmitter & Receivers)
    Digital Walkie-Talkie using a laser to transmit the signal.
    Distortion Pedal: Classic tube distortion or Heavy Metal Thunder.
    Digital Reverb: Delay and combine audio signals.
    LED/Laser Transmission: Direct Audio Modulation/ AM transmission
    Graphic Equalizer: Several bands of filters and detectors. Graphical display of power for each band using LabView.

    Switches and Controls:
    Ultrasonic Motion Detector:
    Use changes in reflected sound to detect motion.
    Clapper: Two claps on/off. Add three and 4 clap sequences for multiple devices. Your neighbors will think you are insane.
    Combination Lock: Push button switches must be pushed in order to open lock/ turn on light, whatever.
    Telephone tone control: Use telephone tones to control remote devices. Hum a tune to unlock door.
    IR remote control: Control your TV. Use you remote to turn on LEDs.

    Possibly useful stuff:
    Brainwave controller:
    control electronics or Labview with your brainwaves, etc.
    Calculator: +,- , 4 bits should be enough extra credit for *,/
    Serial Digital Data Transmission: Over Wire/Light or ultrasound.
    Digital Alarm clock: Seconds/Minutes/Hours + Alarm
    Automatic Phone Dialer: Push a button and dial a number. Just like your phone, but with lots of wires hanging off it.

    Moth Robot:
    Follow Light: Turret or Car Follow dark line.
    Slot Machine: Three Random number generators: Three identical numbers give jackpot/ or flashing LED.
    Brainwave video game: Use the amplitude of your Brainwaves to control a LED display. May be useful in treating attention defect disorder.
    Metal detector: Find Buried Treasure. An exciting new career awaits you. Bermuda shorts optional.

    Radio direction finder:
    Find hidden bugs, you know they are listening. Maybe not, so you will need to build a bug to test it.
    Walkie Talkies: Communicate with radio waves.
    Radio Control: LED, spy plane, whatever.

    Test and Measurement:
    Autoranging DMM:
    Measure millivolts to volts without turning a knob.
    Capacitance meter: Use frequency of an oscillator to determine capacitance.
    Frequency Counter: Digital display of audio frequencies.
    Digital Thermometer: ADC and Digital Readout. Degrees K or Degrees C. Add a heater/peltier junction to make a temperature controller.
    Speedometer: Digital Display of speed of rotating wheel
    Ultrasonic Range finder: Digital Display of distance to objects. Could put on turret to make room mapper, but would require your own laptop.
    Ultrasonic Sonar Velocity: Digital Display of the speed of moving objects. Use doppler shift of reflected waves.
    Speed of sound: Ultrasonic or audio sound speed measurement.
    Speed of light: Use LED or LASER to measure speed of light.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    How about some sort of satellite or weather balloon detector connected to a cellphone relaying real info back to ground.

    There's an interface for cellphone to electronics called ioio board that connects android phone to some electronics:


    Of course even a tricorder device would be cool.
  4. Dec 14, 2014 #3
    I actually really like that idea! Are you saying I could transmit data collected from the sensors by my Edison module via my cellphone service to my laptop by interfacing the Edison and cellphone to the IOIO-OTG? My only concern is not being familiar with Java. I'm finishing my first programming class right now in Python so that's the only language I'm comfortable with for now. Could you go into details? Would I need to know Java to do something like this or could I just find the code I need online?
  5. Dec 14, 2014 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Yes you'd need to learn Java. It's not that difficult. You'd have to use it in the context of Android which could be more daunting. Having said that, there are cookbooks for Java and Android available from Orielly that help with specific tasks. The IOIO board has android software that you include in your application and there are online resources that teach you how to do things with it.

    I got the board some time ago but never had time to really play with it. I did download the test app that's available on the Android App Store which allow you activate things.

    The normal approach to android development is to get the Eclipse IDE and the Android toolkit and configure your phone for developer mode which is specific to each phone. An alternative approach is to get the AIDE app which allows you to code Java directly on the device.

    So task wise, you need to:
    . Wire the board to your sensors
    . Read back the data in your app
    . Send it back to earth

    Sending the data back possible modes:
    . Transfer the data to a website
    . or tweet the results
    . Email the data to your acct

    On your computer, read the data and plot the results or whatever.

    Of course, you could go the other way send instructions to your phone but that adds another level of work.

    This will be quite a project when you pull it off.
  6. Dec 14, 2014 #5
    It sounds pretty ambitious given the amount of time I'll have to complete it and my lack of experience with microcontrollers and programming, but I think I could pull it off if I can get a good head start on things over winter break and find a good lab partner next semester. I might as well order the IOIO-OTG now and see what I can accomplish over the next month. Either way it sounds like a great side project for me. Thanks for your input!
  7. Dec 15, 2014 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    I'd focus on the IOIO and interfacing it to your electronics and see if you can get something displayed on the phone. DOnt forget to research the IOIO board before you buy it so you know what it will and wont do for you. There should be some tutorials around to show its features.

    Later if you have time you could extend your phone app to sending the data to you in some fashion like email or by uploading the data to a website
    and later still you pull it down from the website.

    And if you don't have time, you can wave your hands and say its a simple matter of programming to get the data from the phone to a website and then to your computer... to be done at a later time...
  8. Dec 15, 2014 #7
    Sounds like a good plan. It looks like the IOIO will do everything I need it to. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with it. Thanks for the idea!
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