Experimental Engineering


E80, Experimental Engineering, is a sophomore-level, semester-long required course, in which students conduct multiple experiments covering a number of engineering disciplines. These experiments are a training ground for a final project: a field deployment where student teams measure a phenomenon of their choice. Experimental Engineering is an essential part of the engineering curriculum at Harvey Mudd College, and has been offered as a course for fifteen years. Its predecessor E54 -- which had more experiments and no field experience -- was offered for more than 20 years.

The primary purpose of the course is to teach basic instrumentation and measurement techniques; good lab report practice; technical report writing; analysis and presentation of data; the usage of experimental results for engineering design purposes; and the beginnings of professional practice. In 2008 the course was revamped to change the field experience to flying fully-instrumented model rockets. In 2017 the course was been revamped again with yet another new field experience: deploying fully autonomous underwater robots.


  • Yizhe Chang – Parsons 2364, x-18553
  • Ziyad Duron – Parsons 2366, x-73883
  • Angela Lee - Parsons 2356, x-73516
  • Matt Spencer – Parsons 2358, x-78537
  • Erik Spjut - Parsons 2384, x-73890

Office Hours

  • Monday 9AM-11:30AM -- Matt Spencer
  • Monday 6PM-8PM -- Ziyad Duron
  • Tuesday 3PM-5PM -- Erik Spjut
  • Wednesday 6PM-8PM -- Yizhe Chang
  • Friday 10AM-12PM -- Angie Lee
  • Proctor hours during the project

Meeting Times

  • Lab Section 1 – Monday 1:15 PM to 5:15 PM in Parsons B171 (Prof. Duron)
  • Lab Section 2 – Tuesday 1:15 PM to 5:15 PM in Parsons B171 (Prof. Lee)
  • Lab Section 3 – Wednesday 1:15 PM to 5:15 PM in Parsons B171 (Prof. Spjut)
  • Lab Section 4 – Thursday 1:15 PM to 5:15 PM in Parsons B171 (Prof. Chang)
  • Writing and Reflection for all sections - Friday 1:15 PM - 3:15 PM
    • On 1/25/19 and 3/15/19 all sections will meet in Shan B460
    • Otherwise, before spring break: Section 1 in Shan 2407, Section 2&4 in Shan 2421, Section 3 in Shan 2425 (Sec 3)
    • After spring break: last chance weekly project checkoffs in lab

Graded Submissions

Lecture Quizzes – 7%

There are seven video lecture sets that you are expected to watch. Each of these video sets has an associated online quiz. You must take each of these quizzes individually. You may not talk to any people in order to take the quiz, but they are open book, notes and internet. The one exception to the 'no people' rule is that you may speak with a professor to clarify ideas before you open the quiz associated with the lecture set. These quizzes are completed online, and links to them can be found on the Lectures page.

Matlab Programming Assignments – 7%

There are a series of seven (7) weekly Matlab programming assignments due by Friday at noon for the first seven(-ish) weeks of class. They are to be individual (not team) work. They are submitted as a Sakai Assignment. A sample solution will be posted by Monday morning after the due date. Assignments can be found on the Matlab Assignments page.

Laboratory Deliverables – 45%

During the first seven weeks you will submit deliverables for labs. There are two deliverables for each lab: a submission sheet and a three page report. Each submission sheet you provide will be worth 3% of your final grade, and you submit 7 submission sheets for a total of 21%. Each report will be worth 4% of your final grade and you submit six reports for a total of 24%. You only submit six reports because you submit a technical memorandum instead of a report for the acoustics lab.

Technical Memorandum – 10%

Each student will write an individual technical memorandum on the acoustics lab. See the acoustics lab page for more information and due dates. You must submit a tech memo to pass the class.

Final Presentation – 10%

Each team will make a final presentation during Presentation Days, on Wednesday, 3 May 2016. The detailed schedule will be posted ASAP. The presentation is scheduled for 15-minutes length followed by a 10-minute Q-and-A session. The Final Presentation guidelines are found on the Final Project page. The rubric is available here.

Final Report –15%

A final technical report will be submitted by each team on the results of the final AUV deployments. The report will be graded for both technical content and proper use of technical English (see also this article). Your final report is due at 12:01AM on the day of your final presentation. The Final Report guidelines are found on the Final Project page.

Participation - 6%

The instructors will assign you a participation grade which is determined by their in-lab observations, your peer evaluations, your participation in class-wide surveys and assessments, and your regular progress through the project checkoffs.

End-of-Semester Grades

Grades will be awarded on a standard grading scale (93.3% is an A, 90% A-, 86.6% is a B+, etc ...) based on your total individual score. The professors reserve the right to award grades more leniently than this grading standard.

Pre- and Post-Lab Work Policy

Each week of the course before the final project can be divided into two periods: a a period of time before you go to lab, called the pre-lab period, and a period of time between the lab and the writing and reflection section, called the post-lab period. The type of work you are allowed to pursue in these periods is restricted in order to simulate demands that can arise in real-world engineering, help students internalize the learning goals of the class, and to help keep E80 to a smaller time footprint.

You are allowed to work in any way you would like pre-lab as long as you do not touch any hardware. You may NOT collect data (for your experiment), manipulate or test hardware , populate a protoboard, or use the laboratory equipment outside of your lab hours.

You can spend as much or as little time desired on the pre-lab activities, but successful teams spend a lot of time and energy before the lab starts. You can often do all of the modeling and preparation for data manipulation prior to the lab. It is also possible to have much of the report you will submit at the end of lab drafted before the lab starts. Activities such as examining and/or writing Matlab, Arduino, or other code, asking how equipment works, pre-writing or asking professors about the important parts of lab are encouraged. The only required pre-lab activity is preparing a work breakdown showing how your team will spend their four hours in lab. An example is detailed in Lab 1.

The only work that is allowed in the post-lab period is talking to your teammates and professors. You may discuss concepts, results and the types of analysis you may still need to complete, but you may not commit anything to paper, code or do other work. You may NOT process data collected during the lab, collect data, manipulate or test hardware, populate a protoboard, or use the laboratory equipment outside of lab.

After you have finished a lab, you may not alter or resubmit your submission sheet. You may not alter your report after the writing and reflection period. When in doubt about whether an activity is acceptable outside of lab, ask.

Late Work Policy

No late work is accepted. You will receive no points for work submitted after deadlines. This is in keeping with good professional practice.

Team Assignments

Before your first laboratory meeting (see laboratory schedule), your instructor will assign you to a team. These teams are designated using a number (e.g. Team 1, 2, 3, etc.). These assignments will be made using whatever method your instructor desires, and the nominal team size is four (4)members. Sometimes registration limits in a class will require teams of three or five members to be formed. You will also be assigned to sub-teams for some of the experiments. Team assignments will be for the duration of the course.

Cooperation Between Teams

Cooperation between teams is limited. The rules for each period of the week (pre-lab, during lab, post-lab and writing and reflection) are below. In this section, the word team will refer to a full team of students during a normal week or a sub-team of students during weeks were teams are split into sub-teams.

1-Prelab: A team may discuss the lab with another team to make sure they are clear on concepts and understanding. Teams may not share code, writing, or documentation with other teams.

2-During Lab: Teams cannot work together, discuss concepts or understanding, share data, share code, or share writing. Teams may arrange to swap hardware in order to test debug and test defective parts of an experiment or device, but they should strongly consider elevating their concerns to an instructor if part swaps are necessary or if parts are being destroyed.

3-Post-Lab: Teams are not permitted to work with other teams in any way and, as discussed above, may only work together by talking.

4-Writing and Reflection: Teams are not permitted to work with other teams in any way.

These work restrictions are relaxed during the final project (after lab 7). Teams may work on their robot at any time and may discuss any aspect of their robots with one another (as if the prelab policy always applies).

Sharing Rubrics

We will be handing back graded lab report rubrics throughout the semester. It will be an HONOR CODE VIOLATION to share these rubrics with other teams or with students enrolled in future versions of E80.

Access to Lab During the Final Project

Students may work in the electronics lab any time that it is open. Students may only work in the E80 lab when a professor or proctor opens the lab. Any team may use the equipment in the E80 and electronics labs during a lab section, but teams which are scheduled for a section have top priority for the equipment.