Experimental Engineering


E80, Experimental Engineering, is a sophomore-level, semester-long required course, involving multiple experiments covering a number of engineering disciplines. 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 featured more experiments 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. This year (2017), the course has been revamped again with yet another new field experience: deploying fully autonomous underwater robots.


  • Chris Clark – Parsons 2376, x-78856
  • Albert Dato – Parsons 2360, x-73302
  • Matt Spencer – Parsons 2358, x-78537
  • Erik Spjut - Parsons 2373A, x-73890
  • Xuehua Zhang - Parsons 2364, x-18553

Office Hours

Starting after spring break office hours will be held during the normal lecture time slots:

  • Tuesday 9:35 AM-10:50 AM -- Clark, Dato
  • Thursday 9:35 AM-10:50 AM -- Spencer, Spjut
  • Monday 10 AM-11 AM -- Zhang

Until spring break office hours are

  • Chris Clark – By appointment
  • Albert Dato – Tuesday 8:30 AM - 9:30 AM & Friday 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
  • Matt Spencer – Wednesday 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
  • Erik Spjut - By appointment
  • Xuehua Zhang - Monday 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM

Meeting Times

  • Lectures – Tuesdays & Thursdays, 9:35 AM to 10:50 AM, Shan B480 (Recital Hall)
  • Lab Sec 1 – Monday 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM & Tuesday 1:15 PM to 4:15 PM, in Parsons B171 (Prof. Zhang)
  • Lab Sec 2 – Tuesday 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM & Wednesday 1:15 PM to 4:15 PM, in Parsons B171 (Prof. Spjut)
  • Lab Sec 3 – Wednesday 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM & Thursday 1:15 PM to 4:15 PM, in Parsons B171 (Prof. Dato)
  • Lab Sec 4 – Thursday 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM & Friday 1:15 PM to 4:15 PM, in Parsons B171 (Profs. Spencer and Clark)

Graded Submissions

Matlab Programming Assignments – 7%

There are a series of seven (7) weekly Matlab programming assignments due by Thursday at 8:30 AM 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 Reports – 49%

There are a series of seven (7) experiments comprising seven (7) weeks of labs. The contents of the laboratory reports will be graded on a 100 point scale. The experiments will each contribute 7% of the total grade. Lab Report guidelines are found on each lab page.

Technical Memorandum – 10%

Each student will write an individual technical memorandum on the acoustics lab. See the acoustics lab webpage for more information and due dates. It will be graded for both technical content and proper use of technical English (see also this article). You should submit your tech memo to Sakai under Assignments->Tech Memo. If you need to submit an alternate way, consult your Section Prof ahead of the submission date. Tech Memo guidelines are found on the Acoustics Lab page.

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 –24%

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.

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 slightly more leniently than this grading standard.

Pre-, Intra-, and Post-Lab Work Policy

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.

You may NOT collect data (for your experiment), manipulate or test hardware , populate a protoboard, or use the laboratory equipment outside of lab. 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 enter or change anything in the laboratory report related to the completed lab.

During the time between your evening and afternoon lab, you can continue pre-lab-type activities. 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

At your first laboratory meeting (see laboratory schedule), your instructor will assign a number to each team (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) or five (5) members. 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 phase of a lab (pre, during and intra) are below:

1-Prelab: A student team of two or four can discuss the lab with other teams of two or four to make sure they are clear on concepts and understanding. They cannot share code, writing, or documentation with other teams.

2-During Lab: Teams cannot work together, discuss concepts or understanding, share data, share code, share writing.

3-Intra Lab (between the two 3 hour lab periods): Same as during lab.

Sharing Rubrics

Note that 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.

Work During the Final Project

Many 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 (the prelab policy always applies). During lab sections any team may use the equipment, but teams which are scheduled for a section have top priority for the equipment. Access to the E80 lab is limited to times when a professor or proctor opens the lab.