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A Practical Application Digital Systems Course For All Engineering Majors

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.86.1 - 7.86.8



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Andrew Sterian

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Andrew Blauch

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Session 2793

A Practical Application Digital Systems Course For All Engineering Majors

Andrew J. Blauch, Andrew Sterian Padnos School of Engineering Grand Valley State University


This paper discusses the development of the Introduction to Digital Systems course at Grand Valley State University. As this course is a prerequisite for all engineering majors prior to secondary admission, the course focuses on the practical application of digital systems to solve engineering problems. During the laboratory portion of the course, students design, build, and test various types of digital systems. A unique feature of the course is its integration of digital system fundamentals, C programming, and microcontroller interfacing. Logically and sequentially thinking in both hardware and software are enforced throughout this course. For the Mechanical and Manufacturing disciplines, this provides a strong foundation for the types of digital system applications that will be encountered in the upper level courses and senior projects. For the Electrical and Computer disciplines, the depth of content is developed in subsequent courses. The rest of this paper expounds upon the motivation behind the course, course topics, lab activities, and integration of the course into the ECE and ME/MFG curriculum.


At Grand Valley State University, all pre-engineering majors are required to take a series of fundamentals in engineering courses before being admitted into the engineering program. The Introduction to Digital Systems course (EGR226) is one of these courses. As such, the course must be relevant to all fields of engineering taught at GVSU, including computer, electrical, mechanical, and manufacturing. Therefore, the course content has been developed to provide practical applications of digital systems that may be encountered by all engineering disciplines.

Over the past several decades, digital systems have become incorporated into many different types of products. Most modern industrial machinery and many commercial products are controlled by some type of microprocessor-based system. Many introductory digital courses now contain some type of controller-based application in their laboratory activities1,2. Because of the proliferation of microprocessor-based systems, it is important that all engineering graduates understand how to program and interface with these devices. To effectively do so requires a basic understanding of how these complex digital systems operate. To address this need, the content of this course has been developed around a unique set of topics. The three main topics covered in the course are digital system fundamentals, structured programming, and microcontroller interfacing. Digital system fundamentals is a standard component of introductor y digital systems courses3,4 and underpins the module on microcontrollers. The structured

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Sterian, A., & Blauch, A. (2002, June), A Practical Application Digital Systems Course For All Engineering Majors Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10959

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