Active/Collaborative Learning Student Teams Integrating Technology Effectively Women and Minorities Assessment and Evaluation EC2000 Emerging Technology Foundation Coalition Curricula Concept Inventories
Building Sensors from Operational Amplifiers


The object of this project is to design, build, and test two or more sensors from operational amplifier circuits. The circuits are to be built initially on "breadboards" and after troubleshooting and optimization, transferred onto circuit boards for final demonstration.


Your team's tasks include:

  • Designing the sensors from the parts in the Electronics Kits. You may have to supplement the kit with certain circuit parts and other mechanical components, such as buzzers, motors, potentiometers, or tubing, screws, cardboard, whatnot. The total cost of any additional parts can not exceed $10.00. The designs must be robust - sturdy - clever. There will be several options for sensors, with varying "degrees of difficulty." So, if your team would like to receive a lofty grade in this project, you will have to challenge yourselves - minimal creativity will result in a lousy score.
  • Constructing the sensors.
  • Demonstrating that your sensors work, including:
    • Finding the performance range
    • Carrying out an appropriate analysis of the sensors - you must be able to explain how your sensors work.

The final design and the design process must be documented by the team. The process should be documented in a "design notebook," and the final design in a succinct report that also includes the testing and final outcome of the project.

More Information

So what kind of sensors are appropriate for this project? Your team has to construct at least two to get a passing grade. You may choose from this list, but you can also devise other sensors as well. They are listed in order of increasing complexity, with degree of difficulty listed as well.

  • Smoke detector - 1.0
  • Infrared sensor - 1.2
  • Polarized light detector - 1.4
  • Magnetic field sensor - 1.7
  • Level sensor - 2.0
  • Pressure sensor - 2.2

What kind of components are allowed? Your team may use the objects in the Electronics Kit and may supplement them, as stated before. These components include:

  • breadboard
  • 741 opamps
  • resistors
  • potentiometers
  • LEDs
  • npn transistors
  • photoresistors

Supplementary components could include:

  • piezobuzzers
  • FETs
  • circuit
  • board
  • hobby box
  • clocks
  • relays

What kind of circuits are allowed? Use a comparator circuit.

How do I model the circuit? Use PSPICE to model the circuit, or use an analytical approach.

What goes into the grading of this project?

  • Projects - 40%
  • Design, modeling, analysis - 20%
  • Creativity - 20%
  • Report - 10%
  • Presentation - 10%

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