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Design And Develop A Cost Effective Microcontroller Training System For Distance Learning Engineering Students

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Distance Learning in ET

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.358.1 - 13.358.14



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Paper Authors


Steve Hsiung Old Dominion University

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Steve Hsiung is an associate professor of electrical engineering technology at Old Dominion University. Prior to his current position, Dr. Hsiung had worked for Maxim Integrated Products, Inc., Seagate Technology, Inc., and Lam Research Corp., all in Silicon Valley, CA. Dr. Hsiung also taught at Utah State University and California University of Pennsylvania. He earned his BS degree from National Kauhsiung Normal University in 1980, MS degrees from University of North Dakota in 1986 and Kansas State University in 1988, and PhD degree from Iowa State University in 1992.

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John Ritz Old Dominion University

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John Ritz is a professor of technology education at Old Dominion University. He also serves as department chairman. He has experience in curriculum development with education, business and industry, and the federal government. He earned his BS from Purdue University in 1970, MS from university of Wisconsin-Stout in 1974, and EdD from West Virginia University in 1977.

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James Eiland Blue Ridge Community College

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James Eiland is an assistant professor of electronics at Blue Ridge Community College for over 25 years. In addition, he is the owner/engineer of JEELAND Research & Development which supports various defense contractors, local industry and inventors. James Eiland is a retired Naval Intelligence Officer and earned his BS in Electrical Engineering from the University Of Texas El Paso prior to his military service in 1972.

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

Design and Develop a Cost Effective Microcontroller Training System for Distance Learning Engineering Students


This is the review of a NSF funded project that addresses the hands-on distance learning needs in microprocessor/microcontroller related courses. A research team designed a low cost training system with supporting instructional materials to assist the teaching of these concepts. Individual laboratory activities are being developed to reinforce student learning and skill development in programming concepts. This basic system format eventually will support an array of technology courses. This project involves two community colleges, Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC), VA and Olympic College (OC), WA, and a four-year university, Old Dominion University (ODU), VA, in a collaborative research team to design and develop a specific PIC microcontroller training system with customized designed software and curriculum materials to support related engineering technology courses. The functions of the hardware and software cover different areas of engineering technology courses and majors to maximize the use of the microcontroller training system.

I. Introduction

Microcontrollers have become ubiquitous helpers in our daily lives. They are compact, single-purpose computers running embedded application software that are widely utilized in modern electrical devices and systems to control operations, such as temperature settings of ovens, remote control of television sets, or extended features of cell phones. Now automobile mechanics must work with microcontrollers to control fuel mixtures and ignition timing. Because microcontrollers are so important to our high-tech world, demand is high for workers trained to design, maintain, and put them to use. But many people who want the training cannot take time away from work or families to enroll in engineering technology programs on university campuses. Digital electronics and microprocessor/microcontroller are a major component of the high-tech world and important subjects in the EET and related curricula. To educate students in these fields and accommodate the growing needs in distance learning, the methods of delivering these educational materials have to be changed. Studies show the obstacles in delivering hands- on education in distance learning environments1, but all of them can be resolved with modified instructional strategies. Currently, most of the solutions to laboratory related courses in distance learning are to use computer simulations and sometimes Internet virtual labs, which have fundamental difficulties in solving this issue2. For example, the circuit design, testing, implementation, debugging, and performance checking can not be covered by pure software simulations and virtual laboratories1,3. In addition, the cost of doing all the learning exercises and experimentation is also another issue for instructors and students. The designing and implementing of this microcontroller training system for hands-on distance learning projects provides opportunities to students in rural and urban areas to learn current technology concepts and become prepared to qualify for high-tech jobs. The training system hardware and software designs are presented.

Hsiung, S., & Ritz, J., & Eiland, J. (2008, June), Design And Develop A Cost Effective Microcontroller Training System For Distance Learning Engineering Students Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3422

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