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A Hands-On Approach to Demonstrating Hardware/Software Tradeoffs in an Embedded System Design

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Embedded System Design

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.47.1 - 22.47.12



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Paper Authors


Jeanne Christman Rochester Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Jeanne Christman is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Engineering Technology Department at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her expertise is in the area of Embedded Systems Design and System on a Chip. She is also actively involved in recruitment and retention of females in engineering technology.

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Eric J. Alley Rochester Institute of Technology

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Eric Alley is a 2011 graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in Computer Engineering Technology. His RIT career includes working as a teaching assistant for many core curriculum engineering technology classes, president of a major student organization, and taking part in the Imagine RIT Innovation Festival with a peer developed project.

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A Hands-on Approach to Demonstrating Hardware/Software Tradeoffs in an Embedded System Design This paper describes a Computer Engineering Technology lab activity in an Embedded SystemsDesign course used to provide students with an opportunity to substantiate the theory beingpresented in the classroom. The objective of the lab is to quantitatively evaluate both thehardware and software implementation of an image rotation algorithm on a System on aProgrammable Chip (SOPC). In this exercise, students gain experience in embedded Cprogramming, HDL design and custom instruction generation, along with the use of a VGAinterface. In addition to the practical design experiences, students are able to measure theexecution time, as well as compare system resource usage, of both implementations thusillustrating the hardware/software tradeoffs discussed in the lecture portion of the class.As in most engineering technology classes, the emphasis is on hands-on learning. Theoreticalconcepts are presented in class lecture and put to test with weekly lab experiments. In thisparticular course, students analyze real-world embedded system design issues. They are wellfamiliar with today’s consumer products, which have only gotten smaller, faster and consumeless power over the course of their lifetime. This experiment aims to illustrate that gains inspeed, size or power often come at a cost to the other two factors. The quantitative investigationemphasizes, through a cost benefit analysis of a real world hands on experience, the use ofhardware versus software in an embedded system.This lab is an effective teaching tool which is engaging and interesting to the students. They areenthusiastic about analyzing and solving a real-world design issue. Displaying and manipulatingimages on the VGA further peaks their interest as they are able to visibly see the differencebetween the two implementations.

Christman, J., & Alley, E. J. (2011, June), A Hands-On Approach to Demonstrating Hardware/Software Tradeoffs in an Embedded System Design Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17329

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