Asee peer logo

BYOE: Student-designed Advanced Laboratories for Embedded Computing Concepts, Hardware, and Design

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies: Bring-Your-Own-Experiments 1

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.316.1 - 26.316.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Harry Courtney Powell University of Virginia

visit author page

Harry Powell is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Virginia. After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering in1978 he was an active research and design engineer, focusing on automation, embedded systems, remote control, and electronic/mechanical co-design techniques, holding 16 patents in these areas. Returning to academia, he earned a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2011 at the University of Virginia. His current research interests include machine learning, embedded systems, electrical power systems, and engineering education.

visit author page


Joanne Bechta Dugan University of Virginia

visit author page

Joanne Bechta Dugan is Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Director of the Computer Engineering Programs at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on probabilistic assessment of the dependability of computer-based systems. She has developed the dynamic fault tree model, which extends the applicability of fault tree analysis to computer systems.
Dugan holds a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from La Salle University, and M.S. and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering from Duke University.

visit author page

Download Paper |


BYOE: Student Designed Advanced Laboratories for Embedded Computing Concepts, Hardware, and DesignOur “Introduction to Embedded Computing” course has been implemented with a heavylaboratory and experiential based methodology. This course motivated an understanding of basiccomputer interfacing techniques, fundamentals of programming techniques, data representation,and debugging skills as are appropriate for a typical embedded environment. Experiments werealso planned to emphasize skills and concepts from throughout the balance of the Electrical andComputer Engineering curriculum. This course has been extremely well received by our studentsand led to numerous requests for more courses like it. This has motivated the development ofseveral new courses in which the laboratory/experiential component is even more emphasized,and presented within the context of experiments for which there is a student design activity.These have taken the form of laboratory courses for 4th year students with our introductorycourse as a prerequisite. Uniquely, the course experiments and laboratory experiences aredesigned by the students themselves. We will discuss 2 courses in which the student design oflaboratories and experiments is undertaken.In the first course, “Design Your Own Embedded Experiment”, we explore embeddedinterfacing techniques within the context of the design of student-conceived experiments.Students work in teams to develop new artisanal hardware, compatible with our existingembedded computing infrastructure; these new experiments will become part of our experimentsequence in the introductory course. Students perform a hardware design, including a printedcircuit board, design example code, and write up a complete experimental procedure includingexpected goals and outcomes. These experiments cover topics that include industrial RS485networks, embedded Wi-Fi (the Internet of Things or IoT), multi-axis stepper motor control, anda sound controlled light display. Each of these experiments is also intended to reinforce generalelectrical engineering principles. For example, the industrial RS485 network not only presents anexperiment that deals with communication protocols in harsh environments but also withtransmission line reflections and termination, topics critical to embedded design but seldom seenin a typical laboratory experiment.The second course, “Real Time Concepts” uses the iRobot Create™, controlled by a myRIO™to investigate higher level issues. The myRIO is programmed in LabVIEW™ (which thestudents also learn in this class) to control a set of iRobots to simulate a traffic managementsystem. Individual robots play the role of vehicles and pedestrians that interact with smart trafficsignals (also controlled by myRIO) via sensors and equipped with video cameras. No datamessages are passed, rather the robots and traffic light communicate visually and with othersensors. The development of this example system evolved into the development of a moregeneral platform for the iRobot/myRIO interaction with sub-modules for visual imaging, collisionavoidance, and staying-inside-the lines for example. We plan to use this platform for a lower-level (2nd year) class in the spring, and will construct the class such that it is available to EE,CpE, and CS students, introducing these students to concepts in embedded systems and graphicaldataflow programming.Figure 1 Student CAD work for multi-axis stepper control Figure 2 Embedded WiFi boardFigure 3 Multi-axis stepper control Figure 4 Industrial RS485 boardFigure 5 advanced robots navigating course Figure 6 robots responding to stop signal

Powell, H. C., & Dugan, J. B. (2015, June), BYOE: Student-designed Advanced Laboratories for Embedded Computing Concepts, Hardware, and Design Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23655

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015