June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Computers in Education
14.528.1 - 14.528.23
Embedded Systems Design: Responding to the Challenge
A recent IEEE-USA Today’s Engineer Online article indicated that U.S. institutions of higher learning need to provide embedded systems design programs. The article cited that “only a few colleges and universities have good embedded systems programs in place.” The article further mentioned that “many engineers in embedded systems development are getting close to retirement age.” In this paper we will outline our program in embedded systems development including coursework in microcontrollers, digital signal processors, programmable logic controllers, and embedded systems design. We provide education on embedded systems concepts starting with middle school enhancement programs through graduate level coursework. A common thread through these programs is heavy emphasis on design. The curriculum allows a student to become an expert in embedded systems or allows them to selectively choose certain portions to enhance and augment their chosen area of expertise. Much of the design exercises and laboratories have been developed by student engineers. As a case study, we will discuss recent efforts to expand our course and laboratory coverage of programmable logic controllers (PLCs). We made these modifications in response to our constituents in the field who requested engineers be better prepared to design industrial systems controlled by PLCs.
In the February 2008 IEEE-USA Today’s Engineer Online, Mike Anderson, Chief Scientist of the PTR Group, Incorporated wrote a definitive article entitled, “Help Wanted: Embedded Engineers - Why the United States is losing its edge in embedded systems…” An abbreviated version of the paper was later published in the IEEE-USA Today’s Engineer Digest in March 2008 . In the article, Anderson describes the prevalent use of embedded systems in a wide variety of industries and notes that on average the citizen of an industrialized nation comes into contact with over 48 embedded systems everyday .
To be considered an embedded system Anderson notes it must operate in a constrained resource environment, be economically viable, interact with users and the environment, contain both hardware and software firmware, and operate on low power devices . Anderson further notes that common design characteristics of an embedded system are resource limitations, the application of low power processors, battery operation, limited memory and storage, and the use of many features at low cost . In addition to these design characteristics, Anderson indicates that an embedded design engineer must also be comfortable with the concepts of thermal loading, the MIPS/watts ratio, an intimate knowledge of the target hardware to the register level, and the software interaction with the registers. Furthermore, the engineer must be aware of the overhead involved with the specific choice of software compiler employed to program the target system .
Anderson laments that the U.S. is facing an embedded system developer shortage crisis. He notes that it is not the number of engineering graduates that are of concern; however, the
Barrett, S., & Anderson, J., & Hamann, J., & Kubichek, R., & Muknahallipatna, S., & Pierre, J., & Whitman, D., & Wright, C. (2009, June), Embedded Systems Design: Responding To The Challenge Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/4532
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