Virtual laboratory experiments can be cost effective, convenient instructional resources that have appeal to a wide range of learning styles. Expensive, time-consuming laboratory tests can be experienced repeatedly and remotely using interactive simulations and original video footage or animations. A virtual experiment can incorporate meaningful exercises, procedural options, and background hyperlinks to create a comprehensive "hands on" environment. Also, it may be used as preliminary training for the actual experiment.

An interactive LabVIEW-based laboratory for a load test simulation of an existing demonstration bridge was created. This smart truss bridge is instrumented with fiber optic strain sensors situated on the trusses. The user interface incorporates a synchronized image of the loaded bridge and a graph of the associated strains. A static display mode allows the choice of load placement and of data for single or multiple sensors. A continuous display mode shows the dynamic images of the bridge and strains on truss members. Options include the display of experimental data or of theoretical calculations. Hyperlinks give access to information on the sensors, the bridge construction, and the theoretical analysis. The program interface can also be used in the actual experiment to display data. The intended application is a laboratory for an interdisciplinary class on smart materials and sensors. The Lab VIEW program can be easily modified for tests on other structures such as a full-scale bridge.

Meeting Name

American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition (2002, Jun. 16-19, Montreal, Canada)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Second Department

Business and Information Technology


American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)

Keywords and Phrases

Educational tools; Virtual laboratory experiments; Computer simulation; Cost effectiveness; Fiber optics; Image processing; Learning systems; Sensors; Synchronization; Virtual reality; Engineering education

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2002 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2002