Acoustic Education: Experiments for Off-Campus Teaching and Learning

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Australian Acoustical Society, NSW Division, 2010


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Engineering / Centre for Communications Engineering Research




Wild, G. , & Swan, G. I. (2010). Acoustic education: Experiments for off-campus teaching and learning. Proceedings of International Congress on Acoustics. Sydney Convention Centre Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Australian Acoustical Society, NSW Division, 2010. Available here


In undergraduate Physics and Engineering courses on acoustics, experiments typically involve the use of a Digital Storage Oscilloscope (DSO) and a Function Generator (FG). These relatively expensive and bulky pieces of bench top equipment make it prohibitive for external, distance, or off-campus students to be involved in experimental work, without attending a residential school. However, there is a growing demand, particularly from the Engineering sector, for courses to be more available remotely. To that end, Edith Cowan University is investigating the possibility of remote laboratory programs, which can be completed by off-campus students to ensure their Applied Physics or Engineering knowledge, is balanced by experimental experience. In this work, we show the implementation of a computer based DSO and FG, using the computers sound card. Here the PCs microphone jack is used as the DSO input, and the speaker jack is used as the FG output. In an effort to reduce the cost of implementing the experiment, we examine software available for free online. A small number of applications were compared in terms of their interface and functionality, for both the DSO and FG. The software system was then used to conduct a number of acoustics experiments relevant to undergraduate Physics and Engineering. These experiments include, the Physics of Music, Standing Waves in Pipes, and the Properties of Sound Waves. There are two primary benefits to the computer based system developed. The first is in terms of the enhancement to learning by students at the undergraduate level, where the knowledge learnt by off-campus students can be significantly improved with the use of practical experimental work. Secondly, remote experiments could provide additional components of laboratory work for students in on-campus subjects where resource issues are making traditional and comprehensive supervised laboratory programs hard to maintain.

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