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Evaluating Development Boards For Laboratory Based Embedded Microcontroller Courses: A Formal Evaluation Matrix

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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

Embedded Computing

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.574.1 - 13.574.9



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Paper Authors


Jeffrey Richardson Purdue University

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Jeffrey J. Richardson is an Assistant Professor for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology Department at Purdue University where he teaches introductory and advanced embedded microcontroller courses as well as project development and management courses. At Purdue, he is active in the recruitment and retention of students, applied research and has written several conference papers related to teaching embedded microcontroller systems.

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

Evaluating Development Boards for Laboratory Based Embedded Microcontroller Courses: A Formal Evaluation Matrix


With all the different development board options available for laboratory based embedded microcontroller courses, how do you know that you have selected the best option? As part of the effort to improve the curriculum in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Purdue University, several different development boards were evaluated. To assist in this process and make the “best” choice, a formal evaluation matrix was developed to assess the various attributes of each option. The evaluation matrix and rationale for the criteria are explained in detail in this paper.


Evaluation matrixes are used in engineering fields to make comparisons between technologies on a daily basis. They allow decisions to be made based on priorities of the various engineering requirements for the application at hand. This technique can also be applied to development boards in an educational environment. More and more development boards are becoming available daily and it is difficult to know if we are using the right one.


Many universities utilize development boards as part of their engineering and technology courses. These boards allow the students to explore the current technology usually in a laboratory setting. In some instances, students also utilize these boards at home. At Purdue University, we actually require all of our students in both the freshman digital and sophomore microcontroller courses to purchase their own development boards. This was driven by years of students inadvertently damaging community boards that the university would supply for student use in the laboratory setting. Students would make honest mistakes as part of the learning process and ultimately damage an input or output pin on both microcontrollers and the CPLD’s that were being used. The current student would not realize that this had occurred, or perhaps didn’t want to admit that they broke something, so they would not notify the laboratory instructor of the failure. The next students would come into lab and immediately be at a disadvantage because they were given faulty hardware without knowing this had occurred. After several hours of wasted time, the laboratory instructor might find the damaged hardware and replace it for the student. More times that not, this broken hardware would be utilized in several laboratory meetings before the damage was located. This caused a significant problem for our students.

Richardson, J. (2008, June), Evaluating Development Boards For Laboratory Based Embedded Microcontroller Courses: A Formal Evaluation Matrix Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4483

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