Problem Solving for Engineers: Human Activity Monitor Information for Students

  1. Preamble

The management of a person’s activity when engaged in sporting or normal daily activities is becoming

increasingly important.  Elite athletes need to monitor the proportion of time they spend running, walking or

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standing still during training sessions or actual match play.  Amateurs, who are interested in fitness, may also

be interested in their activity levels.  Monitoring idleness/walking/running patterns is also important in the

study of some animals.


  1. The challenge

Your team needs to develop and validate a (computer) tool to measure the time a person spends standing

still, walking or running using motion sensors (accelerometers) found in smartphones.


Specifically, the software tool needs to be:

• Reliable and accurate

• user-friendly (that is capable of being used by any untrained person)

• able to clearly display activity graphically

• able to store data for archiving and later retrieval and viewing


  1. Deliverables and assessment



  1. Written report (20 marks). A description of your design and the software’s operation are to be

presented in a report (one report for each team) that is laid-out as follows:

  1. An introduction of the problem
  2. The methodology (signal analysis techniques) that will be used to detect different motions
  3. A description of the algorithm (flow chart)
  4. A detailed description of your analysis software (computer code)
  5. Results of validation experiments
  6. Conclusion including suggestions on how to improve the detection algorithm


This report is to be completed and submitted to your designated facilitator before 5:00 pm on Friday of

the week after completion of the project. After it is assessed, you report will be returned to you along

with comments and feedback on your effort.


  1. Test (10 marks) – Duration: 1 hour. To be undertaken during the second part of the last session for

the project.  The test is a closed-book session and is to be attempted by each student individually (no

team work allowed) – examination conditions will apply.


  1. Resources

Reading Material (Available from VU Collaborate):

A series of lectures and video demonstrations pertinent to the challenge are available on VU Collaborate.



You will need a smartphone to record vibration.  Suitable apps are:

• Vibration app by Diffraction Limited Design LLC (IOS)

• VibSensor app by Now Instruments and Software, Inc. (Android)

• Matlab software and PC – available throughout the University


  1. Safety & technical support

Although the activity and associated equipment are inherently safe, due caution must be applied especially if

you are planning to use public spaces.  Make sure that any space you use to generate vibration data is safe

and appropriate for the purpose.


  1. Learning outcomes for activity:
  2. Understand the differences between inertial and gravitational acceleration
  3. Vibration sensors (accelerometers)
  4. Sampling and data acquisition
  5. Basic signal processing concepts such as mean, rms and kurtosis
  6. Appreciate the skills required to undertake measurements and achieve repeatable and reliable


  1. Constructing an algorithm and developing software code for engineering applications
  2. Information gathering, discernment synthesis and reporting
  3. Working in teams, time management and communication


  1. In order to assist you with this challenge, a schedule of activities has been produced:


Lecture  Briefing on the problem solving challenge and human gait while walking or


Own time  Familiarisation wit vibration recording apps

Session 1   Detailed briefing on project.  Familiarisation session on the use of equipment,

apps and software to record, transmit and upload vibration files.

Own time  Undertake required reading tasks.  Start to work on the project and brain-storm

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4



your team’s approach to completing the project.

Session 2  Introduction to Matlab.  Recall how to upload, plot and undertake basic

manipulation of vibration data.

Own time  Generate validation (test) data

Lecture  Lecture on vibration analysis

Own time  Undertake required reading tasks.  Further study of lecture notes

Session 1  Brainstorm data analysis procedure and develop algorithm and code.

Own time  Continue required reading tasks. Validate code on test data and improve.

Session 2  Further familiarisation with Matlab.  Continue with developing computer code

Own time  Analyse experimental data.  Generate information for your report.

Lecture  Final lecture on vibration analysis – important information for test.

Own time  Finalise software code. Work on report.  Practice questions for test.

Session 1  Finalise computer code and report.  Get feedback/advice on results, research

and report.

Own time Finalise report.  Practice questions for test.

Session 2  Advice, revision. Test.

Submit report by 5 pm Friday

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