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Student sensor lab at home: safe repurposing of your gadgets
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1  Department of Engineering and Mathematics, Sheffield Hallam University


The COVID-19 pandemic imposed various restrictions on the accessibility of conventional teaching laboratories. Enabling learning and experimenting at home became necessary to support the practical element of students’ learning. Unfortunately, it is not viable to provide or share a fully featured sensor lab to every student because of the prohibitive costs involved. Therefore, repurposing electronic devices that are common to students can bring about the sought-after practical learning experience without the hefty price tag. In distinction to the conventional lab instruments though, consumer grade devices are not designed for use with external sensors and/or electronic circuitry. They are not professionally maintained, do not undergo periodic safety tests and are not calibrated. Nevertheless, nearly all modern computers, laptops, tablets or smartphones are equipped with high quality audio inputs and outputs that can generate and record signals in the audible frequency range (20 Hz – 20 kHz). Despite cutting off the direct currents completely, this range might be sufficient for working with a variety of sensors. In this presentation we look at the possibilities of making sure that such repurposing by design prevents any potential harm to the learner and to her or his personal equipment. These features seem essential for unsupervised alone experimenting and avoiding damage to expensive devices.

Keywords: sensors lab; sensors education