CHDD popup menu
chdd logo
Center on Human Development and Disability

CHDD is located on the Lake Washington Ship Canal

Home Page




Instrument Development Laboratory

Core services ending June 30th, 2014

mock mri scanner blicket box
computer screen custom MRI head holder electronic components

Dr. Lewis

Thomas Lewis, Ph.D. Director


The Instrument Development Laboratory Core (IDL) meets the research instrumentation and engineering needs of CHDD Research Affiliates and other IDDRC Core units involved in behavioral and biomedical research in acquiring, constructing, installing, and maintaining research instrumentation systems. In general, Research Affiliates require engineering instrumentation consultation when planning, prototyping, piloting, running, and completing and summarizing projects. In addition, they require maintenance engineering support and support on an urgent basis to recover from experimental system failure in ongoing experiments.

The overall objectives of the IDL core are as follows:

  • Design and construct research instrumentation
  • Provide hardware and software systems
  • Provide maintenance and repair services
  • Install and test commercial instrumentation
  • Advise on instrumentation, experiment design, data acquisition, and data reduction
  • Advise investigators about and test commercially available instruments
  • Inform and advise on security and safety issues
  • Evaluate environments in laboratory facilities
  • Assist in the development of research grant and contract applications
  • Support the dissemination and publication of research methods and results

The types of instrumentation that have been provided by IDL include:

  • Physiologic stimulating and monitoring equipment
  • Audio, video, and medical imaging recording and analysis systems
  • Props (modified toys) for learning and behavioral research with children
  • Electrical, chemical, and environmental control systems
  • Monitoring and measuring equipment
  • Computer, electronic, and electromechanical devices for managing experiments and systems for gathering, managing, analyzing, and archiving research data

Return to top


south campus map IDL locations

Return to top

Faculty & Staff

Dr. Lewis

Thomas Lewis, Ph.D.

Dr. Reitz

Frederick Reitz, Ph.D.


Return to top

To Use Our Services

Investigators who are interested in discussing their research with the Instrument Development Laboratory are invited to:

  • Visit the IDL office in CHDD South Building Room 202, or
  • Contact Dr. Lewis ( 206-543-9023.

Consultation and labor are free of charge to all CHDD Affiliates.

Return to top


Key Services

  • Design and build hardware and software systems for experiment control, data acquisition, and analysis
  • Modify and adapt existing systems for changes in research protocol
  • Conduct scientific literature reviews to identify current appropriate research technologies
  • Consult with Affiliates regarding technologies and technical literature
  • Research and advise CHDD Affiliates on commercially available instruments
  • Test experimental systems for functionality and safety
  • Develop new technologies anticipating the needs of Affiliates
  • Evaluate environmental factors in laboratory facilities that may have impact on research
  • Assist in preparing technical documentation for grant proposals and research publications

Return to top


Computer System Development | Electronics/Optical Shop |Machine Shop

Computer System Development

IDL is experienced in the development of software for:

  • Timed/monitored stimulus presentation with data collection directly into an Access database or custom-format data file
  • Presentation of stimuli with precise timing and/or visual specifications
  • Demanding data acquisition tasks
  • Remote monitoring/control of experimental systems over the internet
  • Child-friendly task-assessment software
  • Video monitoring, recording, and coding

Key software in the IDL includes the LabVIEW Professional Development System for the rapid creation of sophisticated and user-friendly PC-based systems.

Some applications require ready portability and more modest computing power. Such cases suggest the use of a microcontroller, a single chip comprising many of the basic functions of a computer. We are facile with the Basic Stamp microcontroller development system. Like LabVIEW, this is a "high-level" programming environment allowing software to be developed quickly and changed easily.

Return to top

Electronics/Optics Space

This space is equipped with digital oscilloscopes, test computers, an electrical safety test system, a portable sound/vibration test system, a high-resolution photometer system, video system components, and an electronic EEG/EKG simulator. Portable test equipment and other tools are also available for field-testing and repair of video, computer, and other electro-mechanical systems. The IDL maintains an inventory of commonly used electronic and mechanical parts, devices, and materials for use in repair of existing systems and for future projects and has access to stores in other nearby departments at the University of Washington.

electronics shop

The IDL Electronics Shop: Electronics benches (left) equipped for breadboard testing and construction of electronic instruments, parts storage (middle) for electronic and mechanical components, and the server and test computer area (right).

Return to top

Machine Shop

This shop includes a metal cutting lathe, mill, large and precision drill presses, band saw, metal shear, sander, grinder, router, cordless drills, and an array of hand tools. Nearby are shared equipment comprising a table saw, carpentry tools, and gas and arc welding systems. We maintain a close relationship with other instrumentation facilities on the University of Washington campus including the Scientific Instruments Division located across the street in the UW Health Sciences building. The IDL also has collaborative relationships with research shop facilities in the Departments of Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Ocean and Fisheries Sciences. Often these facilities collaborate in the creation and application of electrical, mechanical, and optical instruments. The IDL staff is skilled in system design and fabrication of parts and systems. IDL can design and construct PC boards and microcircuits, as well as metal panels and enclosures to make complete electronic devices. IDL staff members are skilled in welding, sheet metal fabrication, cabinetry, plumbing, plastic forming and casting, and glass blowing. IDL staff members are also experienced in the development of robotic and electromechanical systems, electrochemical systems, membrane transport models, ultrasound and acoustical systems, optical imaging, and optical data communication systems. Considerable experience in computer programming including computational simulations, experimental control, data analysis, image handling and processing, output synthesis, database development, and statistical analysis further facilitates support for affiliates.

machine shop

The IDL Machine Shop: Cutting, grinding, and sanding tools (left) and the combination lathe and mill tool (right).

Return to top


Project Examples

Mock MRI Scanner
mock MRI scanner   The mock MRI Scanner gives subjects the sensory experience of the real MRI scanner without the associated cost. (details)
fMRI Data Acquisition
functional data acquisition This system was developed to give researchers an easy way of recording physiological data during functional MRI. (details)
Light Box
blicket box A device was designed and built to study the causal learning mechanisms of young children. (details)
Reaction Time
reaction time panel We created a flexible system that measures reaction time. (details)
Digital Video Recording
digital video editing station Several projects involve digital video recording from multiple sources. (details)
Microscope Heater
microscope heater Heater system was constructed to maintain constant temperature inside a microscope booth. (details)
Recording EEG During fMRI
EEG waveforms We developed a multi-channel data acquisition system to record EEG during fMRI. (details)
Visual/Cognitive Testing
Visual/Cognitive Testing images Computerized system tests both visual acuity and visual recognition memory. (details)

University of Washington • Center on Human Development and Disability Box 357920 • Seattle WA 98195-7920 USA • 206-543-7701 •