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A Novel Race Track Platform For Teaching Microcontroller System Design Concepts

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Course and Curriculum Innovations in ECE

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.90.1 - 8.90.11



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Paper Authors

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Brinkley Sprunt

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session: 2632

A Novel Racetrack Platform For Teaching Microcontroller System Design Concepts

Brinkley Sprunt Electrical Engineering, Bucknell University

1 Abstract

The primary goal of the sophomore microcontroller system design course [7, 8] offered by Bucknell University’s Electrical Engineering Department is for the students to gain experience with the key concepts of microcontroller-based system design. However, because this is a sophomore- level course, the students typically do not have substantial prior experience with assembly language programming, digital devices, or analog devices. As such, the first half of the course has tradition- ally been devoted to the development of assembly language programming skills and interfacing concepts for digital and analog devices. Consequently, many of the more complex, high-level con- cepts such as polling, interrupts, state machines, and control algorithms are not introduced until late in the course. This late introduction limits the students’ exposure to these concepts and often prevents the students from employing these concepts in their final term projects. This paper de- scribes changes being implemented for the next offering of this course that are intended introduce these more complex topics earlier. The motivation behind these changes is to improve the students’ understanding of these more advanced topics by giving the students more experience with these topics earlier in the course. To enable the introduction and use of the more complex microcontroller topics earlier in this course, a sophisticated hardware platform is being developed that employs memory-mapped I/O, LED displays, photo sensors, switches, analog-to-digital converters, timers, and interrupts. This platform is an electronic race car and racetrack set that supports two cars, variable speed controls, car-position sensors, as well as lap-time and total-time displays for each car. By providing the students access to this type of platform for the mid-term project, the students gain significant experience with both high-level microcontroller system concepts (e.g., interrupts) as well as low- level concepts (e.g., assembly language programming, LED interfacing) prior to beginning their final project for the course. To implement the software design for the racetrack system, the students will be grouped into several teams. The goal for each team is to create racetrack system software that is able to host a race between two cars while concurrently controlling one of the cars in the race. This paper describes the overall plans for this new course [8] and details how the features of the racetrack platform will be used to teach both high-level and low-level microcontroller system design concepts.

2 Background: Bucknell’s Microcontroller System Design Course

Bucknell’s Electrical Engineering Department has required a microcontroller system design course for EE majors since the mid-1990s. As originally offered [7], this course was a half-credit

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright c 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Sprunt, B. (2003, June), A Novel Race Track Platform For Teaching Microcontroller System Design Concepts Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12677

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