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A Custom-PCB Design for Microcontroller Education

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.38.1 - 25.38.11



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Paper Authors


Ryan A. Taylor University of Alabama Orcid 16x16

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Ryan Taylor received his B.S. in electrical and computer engineering in 2008 and his M.S. in 2011, both at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He is currently working toward his Ph.D. in computer engineering at Mississippi State University, Starkville, Miss. His research interests include microcontroller-based systems, sensor networks, image processing, and VLSI design.

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David Jeff Jackson University of Alabama

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David Jackson received his B.S. in physics (1984) and M.S. in electrical engineering (1986) from Auburn University. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering (1990) at the University of Alabama. He is currently a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Alabama. Jackson is a Senior Member of the IEEE and ISCA and a member of the IEEE Computer Society and ASEE. He has served on the Board of Directors for the International Society for Computers and their Applications and has served as Editor-in-Chief for the International Journal of Computers and their Applications. Additionally, he has served on the program committee and organizing committees for multiple international conferences. Jackson has more than 70 journal and conference publications, has directed the research of more than 30 graduate students, and served as Principal or Co-principal Investigator for research projects totaling approximately $7 million in research expenditures. Jackson’s current research interests include image processing, embedded systems, sensor and sensor network development, VHDL hardware description language, and programmable device technologies.

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A custom-PCB design for microcontroller educationMuch time and effort has been spent attempting to discover the best approach to the problem ofmicroprocessor education. In electrical and computer engineering curricula, much considerationis given to the topic of hardware interfacing. For the potential computer engineer, this is animportant concept to master, in view of its significance in the current state of technology.Unfortunately, in many curricula, the student is introduced to digital circuitry and immediatelythrust into interfacing, due to the pressures of time in a traditional four-year academic career.Often, the student’s understanding of the basics of microprocessor operation and control are notto a satisfactory level before the student is expected to use a processor to control other, morecomplex, systems. This research attempts to compile a solution to allow a student to be wellversed in microprocessor operation while he or she begins to work with additional interfacingrequirements. A prototype printed circuit board (PCB) has been assembled that works in closeharmony with the National Instruments ELVIS prototyping system that attempts to alleviate thisproblem. This prototype daughter card rests on top of the breadboarding area of the ELVISsystem and allows the student full access to all of the tools and contacts that would be availablewithout the card. The student is required to make the connections necessary for a fully-functionalmicrocontroller system, as opposed to the method of using a pre-fabricated microcontrollerdevelopment board. When using a board such as this, the student may not fully understand theindividual components and their interconnections. This process of connecting componentsrequires the student to understand the physical interface between the microcontroller and theperipheral device(s). Anticipated results from this research are an increased aptitude in peripheralinterfacing and a greater level of success in more complex courses following in the curriculum.By allowing the student to interact with the interfacing process on a lower level, a more completeunderstanding of microcontroller-based systems and peripheral interfacing is obtained.

Taylor, R. A., & Jackson, D. J. (2012, June), A Custom-PCB Design for Microcontroller Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20798

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