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Measurement

Introduction

This concept of random and systematic errors is related to the precision and accuracy

of measurements. Precision characterizes the system's probability of providing the

same result every time a sample is measured (related to random error). Accuracy

characterizes the system's ability to provide a mean close to the true value when a

sample is measured many times (related to systematic error). We can determine the

precision of a measurement instrument by making repeated measurements of the same

sample and calculating the standard deviation of those measurements. However, we will

not be able to correct any single measurement due to a low precision instrument.

Simply stated, the effects of random uncertainties can be reduced by repeated

measurement, but it is not possible to correct for random errors.

We can determine the accuracy of a measurement instrument by comparing the

experimental mean of a large number of measurements of a sample for which we know

the "true value" of the characteristic of the sample. A sample for which we know the

"true value" would be our calibration standard. We may also need to characterize the

accuracy of the measurement instrument by observing historical trends in the

distribution of measured values for the calibration standard (this allows for determining

the systematic error expected from environmental effects, etc.). The effects of

systematic uncertainties cannot be reduced by repeated measurements. The cause of

systematic errors may be known or unknown. If both the cause and the value of a

systematic error are known, it can be corrected for by "subtracting" the known deviation.

However, there will still remain a systematic uncertainty component associated with this

correction.

Equipment

Engineering notebook

Gauge block

Dial caliper

Introduction to Engineering Design Activity 3.8 Precision and Accuracy of Measurement Page 1

Procedure

1. Two students are asked to measure the length of a credit card. The accepted value

for the length of the credit card is 85.105 mm.

Student A uses a plastic ruler. Student B uses a precision measurement tool called a

micrometer. To ensure good estimates of length, each student measures the length

of the same card four times and records the following measurements.

Mean

Standard Deviation

Student A

85.1mm

85.0 mm

85.2 mm

85.1mm

Student B

85.301 mm

85.298 mm

85.299 mm

85.301 mm

85.1mm

0.08165

85.29975

0.0015

a. Create a dot plot of each students data. Use the same number line but

different colors or indicators for each set of data.

c. Looking at the dot plot, which students measurement instrument do you feel

is more precise? Is this result expected given the measuring instruments used

by each student? Explain.

d. Find the mean of each set of measurements and enter each value in the

appropriate cell in the table. Then answer the following questions.

Introduction to Engineering Design Activity 3.8 Precision and Accuracy of Measurement Page 2

a and/or b above?

e. Find the sample standard deviation of each set of measurement data (by

hand, using a graphing calculator, or using Excel) and enter each value in the

last row of the table.

f. View The Empirical Rule presentation. Then answer each of the following.

Use the standard deviation to make a statement about the actual

length of the credit card at the 68% confidence level using Student As

data. Give your answer in both plus/minus notation and using a

compound inequality.

Use the standard deviation to make a statement about the true length

of the credit card at the 95% confidence level using Student As data.

Give your answer in both plus/minus notation and using a compound

inequality.

measurement data at the 68% and 95% confidence levels.

data support or refute your answers to parts a and/or b above?

2012 Project Lead The Way, Inc.

Introduction to Engineering Design Activity 3.8 Precision and Accuracy of Measurement Page 3

2. Your instructor will choose two dial calipers. One caliper should be labeled #1 and

the other #2. Each student in the class will measure a gauge block with each of the

two dial calipers and record the measurements to the appropriate number of

significant figures independently (without looking at another students recorded

measurements). Be sure to keep the measurements for each dial caliper separate.

a. Record all data for each dial caliper. Two tables are provided at the end of this

activity in which to record the measurements.

b. Find the mean and sample standard deviation of each set of data.

c. Compare the accuracy of the two dial calipers. Your discussion should include

the mean of each data set.

confidence level.

confidence level.

f. Based on the accepted value of the length and the accepted value of the

width, which dial caliper is more precise? Explain.

Introduction to Engineering Design Activity 3.8 Precision and Accuracy of Measurement Page 4

While classmates are measuring the gauge block, complete the following exercises.

3. In a group of six, obtain two different metric rulers. Place a piece of masking tape on

each ruler. Write Length on the masking tape on one ruler and Width on the

masking tape on the second ruler.

a. Each person should measure and record the length of the same sheet of copy

paper using the Length ruler. Then each person should measure and record

the width of the same sheet of paper using the Width ruler. Each person

should initial his/her measurements in the table. Be sure to use the

appropriate number of significant digits.

Length (cm)

Width (cm)

Initials

Mean

Standard

Deviatio

n

Assume that the sheet of paper that you just measured actually measures 27.92

cm x 21.36 cm.

a. Compare the accuracy of the measurements for the two rulers. Your

discussion should include the mean of each data set.

b. Give a statement indicating the precision of each ruler at the 95% confidence

level.

c. Based on the accepted value of the length and the accepted value of the

width, which ruler is more precise? Explain.

Introduction to Engineering Design Activity 3.8 Precision and Accuracy of Measurement Page 5

Measurement

1

2

3

Initials

Conclusion

1. Why is it important to know the accuracy and

precision of a measuring device?

4

5

6

7

8

9

manufacturers claim that the accuracy of

the instrument is .001 is appropriate? Why

or why not?

10

11

12

13

14

15

needs to be adjusted in order to accurately

display measurements? Explain.

16

17

18

19

DIAL CALIPER 1

20

21

22

23

24

25

Introduction to Engineering Design Activity 3.8 Precision and Accuracy of Measurement Page 6

Measurement

DIAL CALIPER 2

Initials

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

Introduction to Engineering Design Activity 3.8 Precision and Accuracy of Measurement Page 7

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