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MAE 300
Engineering Instrumentation and Measurement

Laboratory Experiments

Written By
Dr. Hamid R. Rahai
Experiment No. 1


Objective: To acquaint students with the terms and methods used in the statistical
analysis of physical measurements.


The distribution of errors of a series of measurements of the same quantity will

frequently approach a normal distribution if the number of measurements is very
large and if the errors are purely random. Thus, for this class of measurements we
may use all of the standard statistical tools so useful in describing normal
population distributions. Even if the distributions are not normal, the statistics are
still meaningful as a measure of central tendency and dispersion of data.

Engineers have used the mean, X , most probable error of the mean Em, and the
most probable error of a single measurement Es, to analyze errors in multiple
measurements of lines and angles. These quantities have strict statistical
meanings, which are very easily understood when compared with the mean,
variance, and standard deviation of classical statistics.

The principles of least squares, developed from probability theory, states that the
most probable value of an observed quantity available from a given set of
observations is the one for which the sum of the squares of the errors is a
minimum. If the number of measurements is very large, this value will be the
absolute mean  as defined previously. For a limited number of measurements,
the value must be found by iteration (most easily done by computer techniques).

For simplicity in calculation, let us assume that the most probable value of a
series of measurements of the same quantity is the sample mean X , and that the
errors form a normal distribution. As you recall in studying the standard deviation
, 68.3% of all measurements are within plus and minus one standard deviation
from the mean . Civil Engineers felt that the figure 68.3 percent was not
convenient, and the use of 50% would be far more logical. Therefore, they
defined the most probable error of a single measurement as the deviation from the
mean that contains 50% of all measurements. That is:

Es  0.6745 x or

(X  X )2
E s  0.6745  i
(n  1)
n 1

Since we do not have an infinite number of measurements, the sample mean X

and the sample standard deviation  x , are used instead of the absolute quantities
 and , in the calculation of Es .

Any further measurements of the same quantity then have a 50% probability of
lying within the range of X  E s . Es, however, is not the quantity of principal
importance in determining the precision of a series of measurements. What we
would really like to know is what the relative error of the mean is. It can be
statistically shown that as the number of measurements increases, the error of the
mean will decrease inversely as the square root of the number of measurements
1/ n . This means that as the number of measurements becomes very large, the
error of the mean approaches zero or X   .  is the mean for a continuous
distribution. It can be shown that if we divide Es by n , the resulting quantity Em
(the most probable error of the mean), has a very precise statistical meaning. The
true value of the mean (or the absolute mean) , has a 50% probability of lying
within the range X  Em .

Normally then, in any series of physical measurements of length, it is customary

to report the result is:

X  E m (to the proper number of significant figures)

Here Em is:

Em  or

( X  X )2
E m  0.6745  i
n(n  1)
i 1

The student, therefore, should acquire a healthy suspicion the next time he sees a
measurement reported as:

123.141  0.003

This could mean several things, depending upon the preference of the reporter.
The 0.003 could be the absolute tolerance, as in machining practice (go - no go), it
could be the standard deviation, as in classical statistics, or it could be the most
probable error of the mean. All three are used commonly by various groups.

Sample Calculation of Es and Em

Length Xi  X (X i  X )2

952.52 + 0.05 25 x 10-4

952.48 + 0.01 1 x 10-4
952.38 - 0.09 81 x 10-4
952.56 + 0.09 81 x 10-4
952.41 - 0.06 36 x 10-4
X = 952.47 (mean X  = 224 x 10-4
= Xi/n)

I = 1 to 5
Es  0.6745 224 x 10  4 / 4  0.05 (rounded off from

Es 0.0506
Em    0.02 (rounded off from 0.0225)
n 5


Part I. Determining the Precision of a Series of Measurements

The statistics in this portion of the experiment are commonly used to

describe a series of measurements of the same quantity. They serve as a
measure of the precision of a series of measurements.

 Perform measurements of the same quantity of a device as assigned by the


Part II. Production Statistics

 Perform measurements of the a population assigned by the instructor.

Part I:

1. Calculate mean the mean, error of a single measurement and error of the
mean. Report the final answer as X  E m to the proper number of significant
2. Construct a normalized histogram.
3. Calculate the standard normal distribution z and P(z) of the given data and
plot the graph.

Part II:

1. From a given population of 5 data points, perform the following calculations:

Average Deviation from the Mean
RMS Deviation from the Mean
Standard Deviation from the Mean

2. Repeat the calculation for the entire data.

3. Develop a table to compare the corresponding results for the sample of 5 and
the entire population.

Part I:
1. Explain the shape of the shape and distribution of data in the normalized histogram.
2. Explain the shape of the shape and distribution of data in the standard normal
distribution curve.
3. Explain the possible source of errors.
Part II:
Explain the comparison of corresponding results in the table for the sample of 5 and the
entire population to see if a sample of five a good representative for the entire

Experiment No. 2

Objective: To familiarize students with the calibration procedure and the method of
least squares.
Theory: Calibration means assessment of testing equipment against known values, for
development of a relationship between measured and reading values and to reduce errors
in the measurement. Method of least squares is commonly used to obtain a polynomial
for relating the measured values to the output values.

In this experiment, a bourdon gage and a compression load cell are calibrated.
Figure 1 shows a bourdon gage. When pressure is applied at the input of the C-shaped
tube, the elliptical cross section is forced to become more circular, thereby causing
deflection at its other free end. The deflection is then magnified with the levels and gears
to rotate a pointer for reading pressure.

Figure 1. A bourdon gage

The load cell is a strain-gage pressure transducer. A bridge circuit (Figure 2) is employed
to record small resistance changes due to deformation. The circuit has four elements.
When pressure is applied, the resistance of two elements decreases from tension and the
resistance of the other two elements increase from compression. The output is the net
change in resistance. The most common type of strain gages used are small wire, metal
foil, and types of semi conductors.

Figure 2. A bridge circuit for strain gage pressure transducer


(a) Calibration of the bourdon gage:

The gage is checked at load intervals for the whole range. Apply pressure loads to
the platform and screw plunger in each time until platform floats about ½ inch above
its lowest position. Spin the platform and record the gage reading. Repeat this
procedure for all loadings in increasing order, “up” reading, and then in decreasing
order, “down” reading. For each loading, the average of the “up” and “down” is
your average measured pressure.

Tabulate the applied load versus the measured pressure. Record the
uncertainty of the equipment.

(b) Calibration of the load cell

The maximum range for the load cell is 25 lbs. Make sure you do not overload the
load cell. Zero the smart sensor indicator. Then apply loads in increasing order and
record the outputs from the indicator. Repeat the measurement during unloading with
the same increment. The average output for each loading is the average of the “up’ and
“down” readings.

Tabulate the applied load VS measured output. Record the uncertainty for your

Calculations and Report

Plot outputs vs. Inputs and find calibration equations and standard errors for the bourdon
gage and the compression load cell. You need to have calibration equations for loading,
unloading and average data. Discuss the sensitivity of the equipment to the direction of
the loading and how that affects the calibration coefficients. What are the effects of
equipment uncertainty on the calibration coefficients?

Write a technical report according to the instructions provided. Discuss the accuracy
and limitations of your results.

Experiment No. 3

Objective: To become familiar with different thermometers and their thermal response.

Temperature of an object is a measure of thermal potential of that object. Various
instruments have been used for temperature measurements. This experiment involves a
mercury-in-glass thermometer, a thermocouple, a thermistor, a platinum resistance
thermometer, and a bimetal thermometer.

Mercury-in-glass thermometer is a liquid filled thermometer which operates based on

expansion of the mercury with increase in temperature. The expansion has been
calibrated to provide accurate temperature reading.

A thermocouple consists of two wires of dissimilar metals joint at one end. When the
metallic junction is heated, an e.m.f. is generated which is known as the Peltier E.M.F.
The thermocouple wires are chosen according to the maximum temperature measurement
and linearity of its output (e.m.f) versus temperature.

A thermistor is a thermally sensitive variable resistor which is made from semi-

conducting material. It has a very fast non-linear response to the temperature change and
the majority of the thermistors have negative response coefficients (their resistances
decrease with increasing temperature). A thermistor is usually restricted to a temperature
range of -100 to 250 C.

The platinum resistance thermometer consists of a length of platinum which has been
trimmed in length to give an accurate resistance of 100  at 0 C. The wire is wounded
and protected with insulation. It is then further protected with a metallic shell.The
resistance changes with a change in temperature. It provides a nearly linear temperature
resistance relationship which is stable over a long time period. Its thermal response
suffers due to degree of mechanical protection.

The bi-metal thermometer consists of two thin metal strips with different coefficient of
linear expansions that are fastened together. The result is a strip that bends significantly
when heated. One end of the strip is fixed and the other end is connected to a pointer on a
calibrated dial that deflects with changes in temperature. When the strip is formed into a
coil, its sensitivity is increased.
The most important characteristic for selecting a thermometer for a particular application
is its thermal response. The thermal response is defined by the time it takes to change
63.2% of the step change. This is defined as the “time constant” and is irrespective of the
step change in temperature. Figure 1 shows a temperature-time plot for a thermometer

with two different step changes. The time constant remains the same, irrespective of the
difference in temperature step changes.

Figure 1

1. Insert the assign thermometers from the instructor along with a mercury-in-glass
thermometer through the platen into the water heater, which contains water at
room temperature. Using the water heater power regulator, heat the water and
record temperatures of all thermometers for at least five steps from room
temperature to the boiling point temperature.
2. Prepare a container with mixture of ice and water. Place the assigned
thermometers in this container; stir the mixture and record temperatures from the
thermometer. Remove the thermometers and place them immediately in the
container with boiling water and record temperature vs. time to calculate the
response times for different thermometers to the jump in temperature.
3. Prepare a container with water at room temperature and repeat step 2 to obtain the
time constants for the thermometers for the jump in temperature between the
water-ice mixture and the water at room temperature.

1. Develop calibration charts and equations for all non-liquid thermometers as

compared to the mercury in glass thermometer.
2. Correct all temperatures using calibration equations from part 1. Develop
temperature-time plots for all thermometers and obtain their time constant.
3. Prepare a technical report according to the instructions provided.


1. Rahai, H., Temperature Measurement, University Publication, 2003.

2. P.A. Hilton, Experimental Operating and Maintenance Manual, Temperature
Measurement Unit, H980.
3. Cengel , Y.A., Heat Transfer, A Practical Approach, McGraw Hill, 2nd Edition,
Experiment No. 4

Objective: To determine the drag coefficient of a smooth cylinder due to its

circumferential pressure distribution in the sub-critical Reynolds number regime.

Flow characteristic around a circular cylinder can be identified with its circumferential
pressure distribution which is a function of Reynolds number. Reynolds number is
defined as: Re   U D . Here , U∞ , , and D are density, free stream mean velocity,


dynamic viscosity, and cylinder’s diameter respectively. As the Reynolds number

increases, flow separate from the cylinder and create a pressure differential across the
cylinder which causes a drag force. Figure 1 shows a flow visualization for a cylinder
in cross flow at 2,000 Reynolds number. Figure 2 shows variations of pressure
coefficient with circumferential angle and drag coefficient with Reynolds number. For
ideal flow, where we assume due to zero viscosity, there is no flow separation from the
cylinder; the pressure coefficient is symmetric, resulting in zero net force on the
cylinder. However, in real flow, the viscosity causes the flow to separate from the
surface with a maximum pressure in the front (stagnation pressure) and negative
pressures in the back, resulting in a net pressure drag on the cylinder. The total drag is
the summation of the pressure drag and viscous drag, where for a smooth circular
cylinder in a cross flow at sub-critical Reynolds number regime, the viscous drag
accounts for approximately 5% of the total drag.

Figure 1. Cylinder in crossflow

Figure 2. Pressure and drag coefficients of a smooth cylinder

The pressure and drag 

coefficients are defined as follow:

P  P Fd
C p   , C d 
P0  P 1ρ
U² A
2 
C p and C d are respectively the pressure and drag coefficients, P , P , and P0 are circumferential,
free stream, and stagnation pressures, and Fd and A are the drag force and the projected area. Since
the pressure drag is the result of the pressure force in the horizontal direction, the drag
coefficient can be obtained from pressure coefficient distribution as:

1. Turn the digital manometer on and wait for 5 minutes, then zero the manometer and
lock the knob.

2. Placed the smooth cylinder inside the wind tunnel and connect its pressure tap to the
positive pressure side of the manometer.

3. Turn the tunnel on and set the speed at the lowest possible speed.

4. Rotate the circular cylinder at 5 degrees interval and record the mean pressure

5. Increase the speed to the maximum and repeat step 4.


1. From the data obtained, calculate the pressure coefficients and plot C p Vs
 (Degrees) for both speeds.
2. Calculate the drag coefficient from the circumferential mean pressure distribution for
all speeds.
3. Prepare a technical report according to the instructions provided.

Note: In your discussions, you need to discuss variation of the pressure coefficient
versus the circumferential angle as it relates to the flow characteristics around the
cylinder. Identify regions of flow acceleration, deceleration and separation, including the
approximate location of flow separation. How does the change in Reynolds number
affecting the Cp distribution and the drag coefficient? Compare your drag coefficient
with the corresponding results from figure 2 and discuss the differences.


1. Fox, R and McDonald, A.T., Introduction to Fluid Mechanics, 4th ed., John Wiley & Sons,
Inc., 1992.
2. Schlichting, H., Boundary-Layer Theory, 7th ed. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1979.


Experiment No. 5

Objective: To determine the convective heat transfer coefficient of a heated sphere in

quiescent environment.


Lumped system analysis is used to determine the convective heat transfer of lumped
objects. The lumped objects have negligible internal resistance as compared to the
external flow resistance, thus temperature is assumed to be uniform throughout the object
and being a function of time only. For convective heat transfer we have:

q  hA(T  T ) (1)

And from thermodynamics we have:

q  C p  V (2)
Here, q, C p ,  , are respectively total heat transfer, specific heat and density of the object,
V is the volume, A is the surface area and h is the convective heat transfer coefficient. T
is the object temperature and T is the free stream temperature. Equating these two
equations, and integrate from initial temperature of Ti to temperature T and initial time of
0 to time t results in the following equation:

 T  T   hA
ln   C  V t (3)
Ti  T  p

Thus, if variation of temperature with time and properties of the object are known, h can
be determined.
For natural convective heat transfer over a sphere, an empirical relation for Nusselt
number is given as:

0.589Ra 1/ 4
Nu  2  for Pr  0.7 and Ra  1011 (4)
(1  (0.469 / Pr) 9 /16 4 / 9

Here Nu and Ra are respectively the Nusselt number and Rayleigh number and Pr is the
Prandtl number. The Nusselt and the Rayleigh number are defined as:


1. Set up the sphere specimen and the temperature display panel according to the
instructions provided by your instructor. Measure the diameter of the sphere and the
room temperature.
2. Heat up the sphere to reach to nearly 130 C.
3. Remove the heating device away from the sphere. Start recording the temperature
vs. time.


1. Calculation of the experimental heat transfer coefficient h_exp

- Plot the graph of vs. time t(s) and fit the straight line through the data,
ignoring initial data points. Obtain the slope of the line using the method of least


Fig. 1 t1 t2 time (s)

- Calculate the experimental heat transfer coefficient h_exp from the equation:
h= -slope**V*Cp
Where A=4πr²=πD², V=(4/3)*π*r³=πD³/6 and D is the
diameter of the sphere . For steel property, density ρ=7854 kg/m³,
Cp=454 J/kg K. For copper brass property, density ρ=8933 kg/m³,
Cp=385 J/kg K
2. Calculation of the average theoretical heat transfer coefficient h_theoretical
 Calculate Raleigh number Ra

The properties of K, ν and the Prandlt number Pr are evaluated at the film temperature
Tf . Tf is the average temperature of the surface temperature Tw and T (room
temperature).   where Tf is being absolute temperature( in Kelvin). From your
raw data, Tw1 and Tw2 are the surface temperatures of the sphere on the slope of the
line at time t1 and t2 in Fig.1. You need to find the Rayleigh number at Tw1 and then
at Tw2.
 Calculate the Nusselt number:

 Calculate the heat transfer coefficient h.

Finally, find the average heat transferred coefficient h at Tw1 and Tw2.

Tabulate thermal conductivity K, kinematic viscosity ν, and Prandtl

number Pr for air at different film temperatures using the below table.

Reference: Cengel,Y. A., Heat Transfer, A Practical Approach, McGraw Hill,

1 Edition, 1998.
3. Compare between the experimental and theoretical heat transfer coefficients. Discuss
source of errors.

4. Obtain the uncertainty for the experimental h value using the following equation

The thermocouple used in this experiment is type K with uncertainty ±0.5ºC.

1. Cengel , Y.A., Heat Transfer, A Practical Approach, McGraw Hill, 1st Edition, 1998.
2. Incorpera, F.P, and De Witt, D.P., Fundamentals of Heat and Mass Transfer, John
Wiley&Sons, 4th ed., 1996.
3. Holman, J.P., Heat Transfer, 8th ed. McGraw Hill, 1997.