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A Second-Year Project-based Course for Embedded Systems

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Embedded Systems & Cybersecurity for ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


B. Lorena Villarreal DigiPen Institute of Technology

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B. Lorena Villarreal is an Assistant Professor at DigiPen Institute of Technology. She graduated with honors from Tecnologico de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Mechatronics Engineering in 2008, and her Ph.D in Robotics and Intelligent Systems in 2014. She also took courses in automotive engineering and design at the Fachhochschule Braunschweig/Wolfenbutel in Wolfsburg, Germany, and courses in Lean Manufacturing endorsed by the Institute of Industrial Engineers. In 2013, she was invited as a visiting researcher to collaborate with the EVOVision Group at the computer department of CICESE in Baja California. In 2014, B. Lorena Villarreal earned a nomination on MIT Technology Review’s “Innovators under 35 Mexico” (TR35) list for her work on the development of an artificial olfactory system for odor-source tracking and localization using rescue robots. In 2015, she was awarded through a program between INFOTEC, CONACYT, the Newton Fund, and the Mexican Secretariat of Economy, with the opportunity to participate in a training course on technology commercialization as part of the Leaders in Innovation Fellowship program offered by the Royal Academy of Engineering in collaboration with the University of Oxford and Isis Enterprise.
She has authored many peer-reviewed publications and has taught different courses in advanced robotics, mechatronics, signal analysis, computer environment, embedded systems, digital and electric circuits, and control systems.
B. Lorena Villarreal’s research interests include both mobile robotics and artificial intelligence systems. Because technology is constantly changing, she always advocates for research in the use of new technologies. She believes that professors should be able to evolve as well, providing students with up-to-date theoretical background, experience, and practical knowledge, all of which will help them to develop an ability to translate that knowledge into analysis, interpretation, and designs of their own. She encourages students to take part in her research into bio-inspired rescue robots during the summer — an opportunity whereby students can learn more about embedded systems and communication protocols, participate in conferences, and publish peer-reviewed papers.

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Jeremy N. Thomas DigiPen Institute of Technology

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Jeremy Thomas is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA. He has a BA in Physics from Bard College, and a MS in Physics and a Ph.D. in Geophysics both from the University of Washington. Jeremy is also currently an Affiliate Associate Professor in the Earth & Space Science Department at the University of Washington and a Research Scientist/Engineer at NorthWest Research Associates. Jeremy believes that curricula should be student-centered and embedded within an engaged, collaborative community who understand the broader, societal implications of their work. He aims to achieve this through the design of project-based and experiential curricula, including a recent redesign of the Computer Engineering program. He also leads ABET accreditation and coordinates assessment for the Computer Engineering program.

Jeremy’s research is in space physics and electrical engineering, including atmospheric electricity, radio wave propagation, and digital signal processing. He receives external support through grants from agencies such as the US Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation. Currently, Jeremy's main projects are an embedded balloon platform to study the global electric circuit and a tool to integrate satellite and lightning data to help predict hurricane intensity change. He has authored more than 30 peer-reviewed publications, often with DigiPen students.

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Christian Hassard Digipen Institute of Technology

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Christian Hassard is an Assistant Professor at the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA. He has a BA in electronics from Tecnologico de Hermosillo and a PhD in Information and Communication Technologies from Tecnologico de Monterrey. His field of work is related to making smarter machines, applying the knowledge of several disciplines ranging from advanced Electronics, IoT, to Artificial Intelligence. Experienced in the use of embedded electronics, FPGAs, PLCs and control algorithms such as PID and Fuzzy Logic, he has been the author of scientific publications in the field of intelligent control and autonomous vehicles. His current interests include smart city infrastructure, autonomous systems, and multi-agent systems to make smarter and more independent machines on the embedded level.

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A project-based course commonly requires that students solve problems based on knowledge and skills acquired from previous course work. However, even during the early years of study, students can develop a better intellectual independence when they have the opportunity to learn how to discover theory through design. Project-based courses increase the motivation, self-confidence of students, their level of resilience and leads to better retention rates. This paper describes an innovative, early project-based course recently developed and implemented in the 3rd semester of the computer engineering program at DigiPen Institute of Technology for embedded systems design. The main objectives of the course are for students to identify authentic engineering problems, select one and characterize it to propose a solution through the design, implementation and testing of an embedded system of their own. They are expected to apply knowledge from prerequisite and concurrent courses, learn how to do research and document all their work via written technical reports. Furthermore, they acquire practice and theoretical understanding through design and implementation.

In this course students are required for the first time to complete a full design for a project of their own instead of only fulfilling a design component of a project. They must achieve a basic electronics development cycle within one semester: inception, research, design, implementation and prototype testing. The semester project culminates with a demonstration of the system and a poster presentation.

In our paper, we describe the computer engineering program at DigiPen Institute of Technology , the 2nd year course, the methodology implemented including examples of the projects proposed by students and analyze the successes and limitations of the project-based course. We have observed that students gain confidence in their theoretical knowledge after completing the course, they get more involved in engineering projects and they feel more technically competent. Students agree that this course helps them practice and improve the ABET Student outcomes. We assess their technical and soft skills using different rubrics and also compare the grades with results from subsequent years. Even when the course has been recently developed, we find that there is a trend between the grades of different courses. The tendency shows that if students are proficient in this project course, they will do better in further theoretical courses.

Villarreal, B. L., & Thomas, J. N., & Hassard, C. (2019, June), A Second-Year Project-based Course for Embedded Systems Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31991

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