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Improved Student Learning Of Microprocessor Systems Through Hands On And Online Experience:

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.689.1 - 15.689.11



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Paper Authors


Brock LaMeres Montana State University

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Brock J. LaMeres is an Assistant Professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Montana State University (MSU). LaMeres teaches and conducts research in the area of digital systems and engineering education. LaMeres is currently studying the effectiveness of online delivery of engineering education including the impact of remote laboratory experiences. LaMeres’ research group is also studying the effective hardware/software partitioning using reprogrammable fabrics. This work involves exploiting the flexibility of modern FPGAs to optimize the performance of a digital system depending on the application need (i.e., performance, power, size, or fault tolerance). LaMeres' research is sponsored by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Montana Space Grant Consortium, the National Space Grant Consortium, and the Office of Naval Research.

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Carolyn Plumb Montana State University


Fred Cady (Retired) Montana State University

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Fred Cady, (Retired) Montana State University Fredrick Cady is a Professor Emeritus in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Montana State University. He has been involved with ABET accreditation for the Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering programs at Montana State University for 20 years. He is interested in improving the quality of engineering education and has authored five microcomputer textbooks. He has a Ph. D. in electrical engineering from the University of Canterbury, NZ and is a senior life member of IEEE.

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Improved Student Learning of Microprocessor Systems Through Hands-On and Online Experience Abstract

This paper describes an approach to assess and improve the understanding of microprocessor systems for electrical and computer engineering students by developing measurement-based laboratory experiments. During fall semester of 2009, we assessed the level of understanding of microprocessor systems on a control group using five learning objectives. We measured the level of understanding using a set of assessment tools that included self surveys, weighted multiple choice questions, and short answer questions. These assessments set a baseline measure on the five learning objectives for our current microprocessor curriculum. In fall of 2010, we will introduce measurement-based laboratory experiments using logic analyzers on subsequent student groups and assess whether understanding of the five learning objectives improves compared to the control group. The measurement-based experiments will be introduced in two forms, hands-on and remote operation. Assessment data will be collected for both experiment groups to determine if the level of understanding of microprocessor systems can be improved by adding hands-on measurements and if a remote laboratory experience can maintain or improve the level of understanding compared to the control group.

In this paper, we report on the development of the assessment tools used in this project, including the creation of a grading rubric to achieve a finer resolution on the scores of the short answer questions. We also report on the preliminary data collected on the control group and the development strategy for the measurement-based laboratory experiments.

1. Introduction

A microprocessor is the fundamental building block of the modern digital computer. Computer systems have and will continue to be integrated into every aspect of our lives as we move further into the 21st century. At the turn of the century, the average American came into contact with an estimated 100 microprocessors per day1. This number continues to grow as microprocessors are deployed into even more systems that we interact with daily. Microprocessors make up approximately one-fourth of all semiconductor sales, contributing $58.3 billion (USD) to the global economy in 2006. This number is expected to grow over 10 percent per year throughout the 2000-2010 decade,1, 2 taking the total microprocessor market to over $70 billion (USD).

integrating microprocessors into everyday systems. Graduating engineers must possess the necessary understanding of how a microprocessor operates so that they can face the challenges of the next decade as society demands more complex and automated systems.

Currently, introductory microprocessor courses exist in nearly all undergraduate electrical and computer engineering curricula. These courses typically consist of a lecture and an associated laboratory. The laboratory gives students the ability to program the microprocessor and observe and alter its functionality on ru While this laboratory experience is a crucial part of the understanding of a microprocessor, it

LaMeres, B., & Plumb, C., & Cady, F. (2010, June), Improved Student Learning Of Microprocessor Systems Through Hands On And Online Experience: Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15909

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