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MECH4720: Sensors and Signals (2013 - Semester 1)

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Unit: MECH4720: Sensors and Signals (6 CP)
Mode: Normal-Day
On Offer: Yes
Level: Senior Advanced
Faculty/School: School of Aerospace, Mechanical & Mechatronic Engineering
Unit Coordinator/s: Dr Brooker, Graham
Session options: Semester 1
Versions for this Unit:
Site(s) for this Unit:
Campus: Camperdown/Darlington
Pre-Requisites: MTRX3700.
Brief Handbook Description: The unit aims to provide students with a good practical knowledge of a broad range of sensor technologies, operational principles and relevant signal processing techniques. MECH4720 is the last in a series of practical Mechatronic and Electrical courses taken over three years. It takes these practical engineering concepts, along with the associated mathematical, electronic and mechanical theory and applies this knowledge to a series of practical, albeit specialized applications that will be encountered by most Mechatronic Engineers at sometime during their careers.

This unit will starts by looking at signal characteristics, modulation, filtering and convolution before examining some passive sensors. It goes on to provide an overview of the workings of typical active sensors with a strong emphasis on optical systems and image processing (Radar, Lidar and Sonar). It provides insight into basic sensing methods as well as aspects of interfacing and signal processing. It includes both background material and a number of case studies.

At the end of this unit students will have a good understanding of passive and active sensors, their outputs and applicable signal processing techniques; an appreciation of the basic sensors that are available to engineers and when they should be used.
Assumed Knowledge: Strong Matlab skills
Lecturer/s: Dr Brooker, Graham
Timetable: MECH4720 Timetable
Time Commitment:
# Activity Name Hours per Week Sessions per Week Weeks per Semester
1 Lecture 3.00 3 12
2 Tutorial 2.00 1 10
3 Independent Study 3.00 1 13
4 Presentation 2.00 1 1
5 Project Work - own time 2.00 1 11
T&L Activities: Tutorials: A number of matlab tutorials will be undertaken during which the students are expected to develop the code to model some sensing or signal processing application

Activities: One day per week (most weeks), the students are expected to participate in a measurement based activity that highlights some aspect of sensing or sensor interaction with the environment

Independent Study: Approximately three hours of private study per week outside formal contact hours will be required in order to consolidate the work covered in class

Presentation: A group presentation will be undertaken during which the rsults of the assignment will be presented to the class

Project Work - own time: A design project will be undertaken by the students. This will take the form of a log-book which will be assessed by the lecturer at regular intervals

Attributes listed here represent the key course goals (see Course Map tab) designated for this unit. The list below describes how these attributes are developed through practice in the unit. See Learning Outcomes and Assessment tabs for details of how these attributes are assessed.

Attribute Development Method Attribute Developed
The ability to show initiative and independent thought when solving problems Design (Level 5)
Knowledge skills specific to the Sensors and Signals course Engineering/IT Specialisation (Level 4)
Apply learned concepts to a wide range of problems some of which may be in fields disparate to those studied Maths/Science Methods and Tools (Level 4)
Ability to communicate efectively both written and orally Communication (Level 3)
Ability to work alone and trust their own value judgements. Professional Conduct (Level 4)
Ability to work as part of a team to put together a presentation based on the assignment. Project and Team Skills (Level 2)

For explanation of attributes and levels see Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table.

Learning outcomes are the key abilities and knowledge that will be assessed in this unit. They are listed according to the course goal supported by each. See Assessment Tab for details how each outcome is assessed.

Design (Level 5)
1. The ability to apply specialised engineering skills (mechanical, electrical and software) to analyse the performance of a sensor (eg lidar, radar or sonar)
2. Some experience in integrating incomplete information and making value judgements to solve a sensing problem by using engineering "gut feel" rather than a rigorous analytical approach.
Engineering/IT Specialisation (Level 4)
3. An appreciation of the basics required to interpret signals from a range of sensors, and the ability to develop MATLAB code to perform this analysis
Maths/Science Methods and Tools (Level 4)
4. The knowledge to describe the operational principles of a number of different sensors.
5. The ability to make a distinction between sensor performance based on simulation and that based on measurement
Communication (Level 3)
6. An ability to assimilate information regarding the myriad possibilities for the design of a sensor, and to convey this information to ones colleagues
Assessment Methods:
# Name Group Weight Due Week Outcomes
1 Tutorial Yes 35.00 Multiple Weeks 1, 3, 5,
2 Assignment No 25.00 Week 11 1, 2, 3, 4, 6,
3 Presentation Yes 10.00 Week 12 1,
4 Final Exam No 30.00 Exam Period 1, 3, 4, 6,
Assessment Description: Tutorial: Five MATLAB tutorials will be undertaken in which the students are expected to apply and investigate specific aspects of sensor modelling and signal processing

Assignment: The design assignment will take the form of a report

Presentation: Group presentation of the assignment results requires students to negotiate with their colleagues the best points of their design, reach a consensus and put together a coherent presentation

Final Exam: An open-book examination will determine whether the students have understood the course, and are able to apply what they have learned.
Assessment Feedback: Tutorials marked by tutor and returned to students
Assigmnment marked by lecturer and returned to students
Presentation marked by peers and lecturer and returned to students
Exam marked by lecturer
Grade Type Description
Standards Based Assessment Final grades in this unit are awarded at levels of HD for High Distinction, DI (previously D) for Distinction, CR for Credit, PS (previously P) for Pass and FA (previously F) for Fail as defined by University of Sydney Assessment Policy. Details of the Assessment Policy are available on the Policies website at . Standards for grades in individual assessment tasks and the summative method for obtaining a final mark in the unit will be set out in a marking guide supplied by the unit coordinator.
Policies & Procedures: All university policies can be found at

Policies and request forms for the Faculty of Engineering and IT can be found on the forms and policies page of the faculty website at
Prescribed Text/s: Note: Students are expected to have a personal copy of all books listed.
Online Course Content: MECH4720 on Blackboard

Note that the "Weeks" referred to in this Schedule are those of the official university semester calendar

Week Description
Week 1 Signal processing and modulation
Week 2 Active ranging sensors
Week 3 Active imaging sensors
Week 4 Signal propagation
Week 5 Detection of Signals in Noise
Week 6 Target and Clutter Characteristics
Week 7 Doppler measurement
Week 8 High range resolution techniques
Week 9 High angular resolution techniques
Week 10 High angular resolution techniques
Week 11 Range and angle tracking
Assessment Due: Assignment
Week 12 Group Presentations
Assessment Due: Presentation
Week 13 Tomography
Exam Period Assessment Due: Final Exam

Course Relations

The following is a list of courses which have added this Unit to their structure.

Course Year(s) Offered
Mechatronic Engineering / Arts 2011, 2012, 2013
Mechatronic Engineering (Space) / Arts 2011, 2012, 2013
Biomedical Engineering / Law 2013
Biomedical Engineering / Arts 2013
Biomedical Engineering / Commerce 2013
Biomedical Engineering / Medical Science 2013
Biomedical Engineering / Project Management 2013
Biomedical Engineering / Science 2013
Mechatronic Engineering / Commerce 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Mechatronic Engineering / Medical Science 2011, 2012, 2013
Mechatronic Engineering / Project Management 2012, 2013
Mechatronic Engineering / Science 2011, 2012, 2013
Mechatronic Engineering (Space) / Medical Science 2011, 2012, 2013
Mechatronic Engineering (Space) / Project Management 2012, 2013
Mechatronic Engineering (Space) / Science 2011, 2013
Mechatronic Engineering (Space) / Law 2013

Course Goals

This unit contributes to the achievement of the following course goals:

Attribute Practiced Assessed
Design (Level 5) Yes 38.75%
Engineering/IT Specialisation (Level 4) Yes 27.5%
Maths/Science Methods and Tools (Level 4) Yes 21.25%
Communication (Level 3) Yes 12.5%
Professional Conduct (Level 4) Yes 0%
Project and Team Skills (Level 2) Yes 0%

These goals are selected from Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table which defines overall goals for courses where this unit is primarily offered. See Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table for details of the attributes and levels to be developed in the course as a whole. Percentage figures alongside each course goal provide a rough indication of their relative weighting in assessment for this unit. Note that not all goals are necessarily part of assessment. Some may be more about practice activity. See Learning outcomes for details of what is assessed in relation to each goal and Assessment for details of how the outcome is assessed. See Attributes for details of practice provided for each goal.