High Tech Tools & Toys Lab

The High-Tech Tools and Toys Laboratory is a discovery-based educational laboratory. The High Tech Tools and Toys (HTT&T) laboratories engage freshmen in hands-on learning activities using state-of-the-art technology products. The laboratory creates an exciting problem-solving environment where engineering skills including programing, data analysis, real-time instrument control and project planning are mastered.

The ALERT team is creating new modules for the HTT&T laboratories emphasizing homeland security technologies.  Detection of hidden explosives largely relies two fundamental techniques: imaging and spectroscopy.  An undergraduate module developed in Year Two involves the use of optical spectroscopy to collect spectra to discriminate between samples of corn oil, motor oil and olive oil.  While the samples look similar to the naked eye, they will have different spectral signatures that can be used to distinguish one type of oil from the other and distinguish adulterated from pure olive oil.

A second module addresses imaging.  Using 40kHz ultrasound transducers, students use an oscilloscope to measure the change in the arrival time of an ultrasound burst as a function of the distance between the two transducers.  Simple mathematical modeling allows the student to find the spread of sound in air.  They can also deduce the inverse-square attenuation as a function of distance resulting from the spreading of the ultrasound waves in air.  Students then learn to download the oscilloscope trace to their computer over an IEEE-488 bus.  They can then write a program to determine the arrival time delay and automate the range deletion function.  This can be used to make an intrusion detection system, or to determine the location of an object rotated by a stepper motor behind an opaque curtain.

State-of-the-art components such as digital cameras, optical spectrometers, and ultrasound imaging equipment foster student enthusiasm for engineering, familiarize students with industry documentation and methods, and motivate advanced study.

Undergraduate research associates use the laboratory facilities for advanced ALERT team-based projects.



A Hands-on Approach

Students participate in a High Tech Tools and Toys classroom exercise. The classroom modules — programmed entirely by students, parallel an imaging system for explosives detection.

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Student Central

Students, get connected with Industry Partners, find out about research and volunteer opportunities within ALERT, or get advice on how to best showcase your work at Student Central.

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The Partnership

ALERT is led by Northeastern University (NEU) and includes three key academic strategic partners: Boston University, Purdue University, and University of Rhode Island (URI).

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