Skip to Main Content
In an innovative engineering course on Sustainable Design in Engineering, two Rowan University electrical and computer engineering (ECE) students designed a prototype for an inexpensive power measurement instrument. Their motivation was to more economically and conveniently monitor the energy flows on a university campus that currently uses over $7 million of electricity and gas annually. These students continued the development of their initial design prototyped for the above course by redesigning, constructing, and testing a more easily manufacturable instrument in their Senior Engineering Clinic class. The engineering clinic sequence at Rowan University represents an ideal mechanism for the inclusion of key instrumentation and measurement (I&M) concepts and principles into an engineer's education. While the core ECE curriculum does not teach I&M technology (I&MT) as a distinct subject area, the students engage in a hands-on and minds-on learning environment in this clinic, which proves ideal for I&MT applications and education. Their challenge was to create an inexpensive I&MT that could provide the means by which Rowan University could affordably monitor its electrical energy use in many of its unmetered buildings. With these data, the university could then find out exactly why it leads a group of 20 peer universities and colleges in energy consumenergy consumption ption per square foot and to assist the university in meeting its sustainability commitment to the Governor's Office and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. With the assistance of their professor and the use of their electrical engineering training, the team undertook to develop an energy auditor's dream machine, i.e., a cheap, portable, and easily installed energy measurement instrument that produces reliable data and can be used to safely instrument each key building without requiring the aid of a professional electrician. This paper details the background of their chall- enge, the approaches they considered, the benefits of this project-based learning clinic on I&M education and, quite importantly, the innovation they have created, i.e., a single-phase power sensing, measuring, and monitoring instrument for a total cost of less than $100 (their design can be easily expanded to three phase for a nominal increase in sensor cost).