Submitted to: American Society of Agri Engineers Special Meetings and Conferences Papers
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: July 7, 1995
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: This technical report discusses efforts to upgrade the primary data acquisition system for the Environmental Laboratory in the Biological Engineering Research Unit at the US Meat Animal Research Center. Key capability improvements include doubling the number of weighing feeders that can be used to monitor feeding behavior, replacing mechanical-clock based lighting control, adding monitoring of lights, and adding alarm capabilities to indicate when monitored conditions are out of the expected range of values. Key innovations include the plug connections for rearranging sensors within and between rooms, and the ability to set up and change the number of sensors being used and the rate at which those sensors are sampled though a simple, graphical-interface driven program. Planning for the project helped the development group address a large problem requiring cooperation to address hardware and software concerns. Actual implementation of the new system was developed in stages to get critical components working for experiments before development of other components was completed. This report includes 1) definition of data acquisition need, (2) purchasing and developing software to work with the hardware; 3) getting the software to record and display the data collected in a desired format; and 4) final implementation and testing the data acquisition system with the weighing feeders under severe time constraints.
Technical Abstract: This technical note describes efforts to upgrade data acquisition equipment for recording physiological and thermal measurements in large- animal environmental chambers. The upgrading consisted of doubling the number of weighing load cells on feeders, improving the monitoring and control of lights, improving the monitoring and recording of temperatures and humidities, monitoring and controlling access to feeders, and providing additional alarming capabilities. Because of changing requirements between experiments, the new data acquisition system also needed to provide simple means to reconfigure and "plug in" different sensing and controlling components for both hardware and software. Systems engineering, as discussed by Korthals (1995), was used to define system requirements and to plan and track the staged implementation of the equipment and development of software. Through software engineering practices of project management, software requirements gathering, software configuration management, and software quality assurance, we organized a group project and developed modular software to provide simple reconfiguration for experiments by users with limited computer skills. The data acquisition software can be extended and maintained by any member of the software group, and is not dependent on any one developer for continued maintenance. Solutions to difficulties discussed include: (1) purchasing and developing software to work with the hardware; (2) getting the software to record and display the data collected in a desired format; and (3) final implementation and testing the data acquisition system with the weighing feeders under severe time constraints.