ASU FSE 100 – Intro to Engineering

I took FSE 100 – Intro to Engineering Session A, Fall of 2015. FSE 100 is a 2 unit course, but don’t let the two units fool you. This course required a lot of time and collaboration with team members!

Over 7.5 weeks the course exposed students to general engineering. A plethora of topics were covered, but not a huge amount of time was spent on any one area. The weeks were broken down into the following topics:

  • Week 1 – Working in Teams & The Engineering Design Process
  • Week 2 – Models, Measurements and Acoustics
  • Week 3 – MATLAB and Creativity
  • Week 4 – Project Management and Technical Communication
  • Week 5 – Project Proposal & Construction, Electrical Fundamentals and Analog and Digital Filtering
  • Week 6 – Project Construction, Engineering Applications – Grand Challenges and Mars Rover
  • Week 7 – Project Construction, Engineering Applications – Solar Energy & Wrap Up

The first part of the class had the most material to learn, while the last half of the class focused on the group project. By far, I spent the most time on the group project.

A huge portion of the grade for this class was the group project. Students were put into teams of 3-4 students with others students who had similar schedules and groups were tasked with coming up with a solution for a fictitious band. The “band” needed unique instruments that could play 1 of 3 songs and fit into a string, wind and percussion classification. Songs included ASU’s Alma Mater, Fight Song or Ode to Joy.

Throughout the course, the group needed to deliver various engineering documents such as a problem definition and requirements, project proposal, project plan, project updates and engineering drawings using examples and skills learned during the first part of the class.

The final deliverables were video presentations, working instruments and a final written report. There were a few quizzes and weekly questions to answer through the course, but the group project was the primary focus.

ASU provides each student with Google accounts that include email, Google Docs, Sheets, etc. Google Drive and Google’s IM and Video Conference product helped my group collaborate in real time. This class was my first exposure to Google’s tools and I was impressed with how well the group was able to use them in real time to piece together all the deliverables for the course.

One the group project – I ended up building two instruments. Initially I took on a pan pipe wind instrument that was designed to play the high notes and then build a thumb piano after the group ran into problems with a xylophone.

During the first part of the class we were given instruction on MATLAB and acoustics that we used to determine string lengths, pipe lengths, etc needed to build the instruments needed to play the songs. Another perk of being enrolled at ASU is the university gives you access to the software needed. We were able to get access to a student edition of MATLAB for use and I was able to setup a MATLAB script that would calculate the pipe and bar lengths needed for the two instrument types I built. We were shown how to graph results for inclusion in the final report. We barely scratched the surface of what can be done in MATLAB and I am looking forward to working more in MATLAB.

The pan pipes were made out of PVC pipe with a wooden frame to hold them together. On the thumb piano, I sacrificed a garden rake for the tines and then used wood and steel to complete the assembly. Send me a note if you’re looking for more specifics on the construction! The instruments were tuned to play specific notes and a spectrum analysis was done to make sure that the notes played were close to the notes required for ASU Alma Mater.

During week 5 we took a look at electrical fundamentals and the audio recording software Audacity. Audacity was used to piece together the groups instrument samples for the Alma Mater demo we submitted. I built a simple RC filter on a breadboard and measured voltage as different frequencies were generated through Audacity for one of the assignments. As an electrical engineering student, I really enjoyed this unit’s material although definitely left me wanting more! Here are a photo of the simple circuit that was built. IMG_0030 [3025942]

We also used a voltmeter to measure current, voltage and resistance. Very basic activities, but good to know! We did have to buy a $25.00 electronics part kit and only used a couple of the components, but I’m hoping the other parts will get put to use in upcoming EE courses.

My least favorite portion of the course was having to record a video presentation and demonstration. I try to shy away from public speaking, but I can certainly understand why it’s important. This part of the assignment got me outside of my comfort zone. It took me a couple of tries to get a decent recording that fit into the time constraints. Definitely don’t wait until the last minute on this part of the assignment! One of my group members did the final editing and pieced together the various recordings to make one final video for submission. If you’d like to check out the final video, let me know and I’ll send you a link.

Overall, I enjoyed this course and the nice variety of topics covered. It was challenging working with a long distance team, but great preparation for what one could face later in one’s career. Collaboration tools definitely have come a long ways and keep getting better. Instructors grading comments were helpful and timely and overall I was very happy with my grade.





28 Replies to “ASU FSE 100 – Intro to Engineering”

  1. Hey Robert, I would love to see your group’s final video. Our group is having some issues with ours on how to make it flow correctly. I struggled with the thumb piano assignment. Do you mind sending me some pictures of yours to see where I went wrong?

      1. Hey Robert, my entire thumb piano was a fail. Is there any way you can be more specific on the construction. I just don’t want to make the same mistakes as before.

  2. If you’d like to share some photos and detail of your construction, I can try and offer some suggestions. If I remember correctly there were a number of instructions available on Internet that you might find useful.

    For the body on mine, I used a piece of hardwood oak, for the bridge, it was a piece of oak again to raise the rake tines up a bit. A round piece of metal underneath the rake tines and a larger square bar of metal on top bolted together secured the rake tines to the base. I sacrificed a garden rake for the metal keys. Just cut them off with a hacksaw. I got the metal and wood over at Orchard Supply or Home Depot, can’t remember, but they have that stuff there.

    The tines were all sized according to the Matlab calculations and then I used a guitar tuner to make sure that when plucked the tine produced the correct note. Took a little bit of time, to get everything tuned. Was just a matter of pulling them in or out a little bit to get them to the correct frequency.

    For the finish, I think I just put a coat of shellac on it.

      1. I made them a little bit longer than the calculations I did in Matlab. The length as I remember it was from the end of the tine to where it connects up to the bridge. I left a bit off the back and then just took a Dremel with a cutoff disk attachment and cut them after I had it tuned. If I remember correctly, one of the lectures has information on how long something must be, to vibrate at a certain frequency. Once we had decided on a song, I went through the sheet music that was provided, figured out which notes I needed, looked up the frequency and then ran the numbers that way to determine the length.

  3. even though the calculations say it needs to be say 17cm, I found that it still required tuning, either being pulled out a little bit or pushed in a little bit. I ended up going through with a guitar tuner to make sure each tine produced the required note and was in tune.

    1. Usually there is a Piazza discussion board for ASU courses. Have you tried reaching out to the TAs or Professor or your teammates through that channel? Without seeing any of your work this is tough to help on.

      1. So I determined what notes I needed (G4, A4, B4, C5, D5) Just trying to figure out how to get there to find the length of a tine. If you don’t mind can you help me with an example?

  4. I think I’ve been doing it wrong in matlab somehome. I know the frequencies should be G4: 392 Hz
    A4 : 440 Hz
    B4: 494 Hz
    C5: 523 Hz
    D5: 587 Hz
    but the lengths are not coming out with logical answers..

  5. I did it like this for the frequency of 220:
    >> m=1.194

    m =


    >> v=5100

    v =


    >> K=.00045867

    K =


    >> f=220

    f =


    >> sqrt(m^2*pi*K*v/8*220)

    ans =


  6. Rather than using the command window, you may want to consider setting everything up in a MATLAB file so you can adjust values and get all the frequencies in one shot. I’m not sure if the lectures are still the same, but I think this was all covered in Unit 5? For example, on the string calculations, I did the following making sure I had everything in meters, seconds, kilograms for the calculations. I think all this stuff is covered in the lectures so may be worth going back through those?

    %% Unit 5 – Modeling Acoustics in MATLAB
    % Written by: Robert Graves
    % Date: 9/4/2015

    % clear workspace, figure windows and clear command window
    clear all; close all; clc;

    % Variables
    freqVals = linspace(100,1500,20); % Frequency (Hz)
    t = 150; % Tension (Newtons)
    u = .02; % Linear mass density (kg/m)
    vAir = 343.5; % Speed of sound in air (m/s)
    vBar = 4000; % Speed of sound in bar(m/s)
    rOuter = 0.0254; % Outer radius of tube (m)
    rInner = 0.02; % Inner radius of tube (m)
    recBarThick = 0.0175; % Thickness of rectangular bar (m)
    mSimple = 3.0112; % Simply supported bar m value n = 1
    mCantilever = 1.194; % Cantilever supported bar m value n = 1

    % Calculate string length (eq. 1)
    stringLength = (sqrt(t/u)) ./ (2 * freqVals);

    % Plot string length vs. freqency

    % Modify plot properties
    xlabel(‘Frequency – Hertz’)
    ylabel(‘String Length – Meters’)
    title(‘String Length vs. Frequency’)

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