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Design Inspections And Software Product Metrics In An Embedded Systems Design Course

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Portable/Embedded Computing I

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.381.1 - 9.381.8

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Paper Authors

author page

J.W. Bruce

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

Design Inspections and Software Product Metrics in an Embedded Systems Design Course J.W. Bruce Mississippi State University


Development tools, especially those for software, have matured to the point where a single iteration of the development cycle can be as short as a few minutes. No one desires to go back to the “good old days” when the development and physical prototyping cycles took hours or days. However, the slower development pace of yesteryear did prompt a certain amount of critical review of design changes and undoubtedly prevented many basic design defects. Current development tools combined with the increasing time-to-market demands lead engineers (and engineering students) to design at a frantic pace, often introducing many design defects. An easy way to improve the quality of design is to get the engineers to simply “slow down”.

This paper describes a design process for an embedded systems design course [1] where formalized hardware and software design inspections are performed. The design inspections are held before prototyping begins and strives to curtail the far too common cycle of develop, test, change, and test again – a cycle I describe as “hacking”. The design process described in this paper yields a high-quality product within a short design cycle, while mimicking the design inspections found in industry [2] [3].

The design inspections serve as a convenient time for software product measures to be collected. The quantitative measures document the nature, origin, and other vital characteristics of each design defect and are frequently used in industry [4] [5]. Furthermore, data obtained in design reviews can be used to improve the instruction quality, track the maturity of the student design skills, and prompt relevant classroom discussions. Examples of using the software product metrics in design process monitoring, analysis, and estimation are given.

Finally, the design practices described in this paper help students to develop team and communication skills that are often neglected by traditional engineering curricula. Course evaluations were obtained from students and external reviewers. Results indicate that the process is well received and achieves the course’s educational objectives.

1 Introduction

In [[1]], the author presents a team-based progressive embedded systems design course that, in addition to providing the technical embedded systems knowledge, develops team and communication skills in situations emulative of industry. The course was a success by many accounts; however, student teams abandoned sound design practices in attempt to meet the demanding 16-week “time-to-market” constraint. Teams adopted a rapid development model where design defects are detected and corrected in unit and system testing. Designs were not reviewed other than ad hoc reviews by the designer. Consequently, team members produced

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Bruce, J. (2004, June), Design Inspections And Software Product Metrics In An Embedded Systems Design Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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