The Walla Walla University School of Engineering was recently gifted a Fluke 5502A calibrator for use in precisely calibrating lab equipment. Nicholas Zimmerman, electrical engineering senior at Walla Walla University, helps maintain lab equipment and played an important role in the donation. Responses have been edited for clarity.
Could you explain a little about the project you were working on that required the calibrator?
Every year Technical Support Services checks and maintains equipment across campus. My job as a student worker is to check electrical measurement equipment in the engineering labs in Kretschmar Hall. I check the performance of lab bench equipment and calibrate it when it is out of specifications. I mostly work with electronics measurement and reference equipment including multimeters, oscilloscopes, signal generators, and power supplies. Multimeters are used in most of our labs including flight, fluids, structures, and biomaterials.
What does the calibrator do?
When we take a measurement of the physical world it is always imprecise to some degree. Instruments are rated to take measurements at varying levels of precision. Calibration is the process of tuning an instrument to read an accurate value within its level of precision. We use the Fluke 5500A to check equipment for errors and correct errors when we see them, and always recalibrate after serving equipment.
Why was this specific tool needed?
Faculty and students trust that our equipment meets specifications for classes and lab work. A few calibrators can check the performance of many machines on campus. We have been using the Fluke 5500A to provide voltage, current, and impedance references to check various lab equipment. If the readings do not match what the calibrator is outputting to within an allowable margin of the error for measurement, then the instrument needs to be calibrated.
How did you get in contact with Fluke, and when did you learn that they would donate the calibrator?
Our Fluke 5500A calibrator is getting old and is no longer supported by Fluke. I wanted to see how much of a budget we would need to replace our current calibrator. Prices were not listed directly, so I requested more information. I was initially a bit wary of getting a sales representative on the spot because I was only doing preliminary research. But instead I got in contact with Fluke’s sales team including Christie Whitehead and John Lopez. I was surprised to have Fluke offer to donate a $25,000 Fluke 5502A calibrator to Walla Walla University. Fluke even went above and beyond, calibrating and shipping it for free!
What does this mean for WWU students?
Calibrating our measurement equipment sets an accuracy baseline we can trust as we use calibrated instruments across campus in day-to-day work. These instruments are used in turn to take measurements, troubleshoot problems, and keep STEM running smoothly.
Posted April 7, 2022