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Increase Student Project Outcome In Embedded System Course Through Design Competition

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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

Embedded System Design

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.719.1 - 15.719.10



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Paper Authors

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Michael Kimbrough University of Tennessee at Martin

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Rhett Chrysler University of Tennessee at Martin

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Somsak Sukittanon The University of Tennessee at Martin

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

Increase Student Project Outcome in Embedded System Course through Design Competition


In 2007, an upper division elective course in embedded systems at the University of Tennessee at Martin was switched from the Intel 8085 to the ATMEL AVR microcontroller. The objective is to teach students how to design a hardware interface and to write firmware for the new processor using C and assembly languages. Conventionally, the majority of engineering courses revolve around the analytical analysis of real world problems and challenges; however, there is a need to address certain aspects of real world problem-solving that extends beyond what is covered within traditional written analysis based courses. The ENGR460 class has created an alternate approach to develop such skills, by creating a challenging and motivating learning environment.

The first half of the course consists of lectures covering basic microcontroller functions and sensors, with corresponding labs each week. Examples of sensors that students explored in the lab include ultrasonic rangefinder, RFID reader, and accelerometer. This is all preparatory for the second half of the semester in which students pursue a final project based on their interests. This final project encompasses various aspects of engineering including design, fabrication, implementation, debugging, project management, and public presentation. At the end of the semester, students are required to present their products in an annual competition presented to their peers on the campus. This helps to complement the traditional written exam by providing the students with invaluable hands-on experience which prepares students to be competitive after graduation.

1. Introduction

Since 2000, reality television shows have gained significant popularity from viewers around the world. These programs usually involve competitions as individual or team efforts in a variety of contests, such as singing, dancing, or inventing new devices. The winner is typically chosen based on a combination of judges’ preference and viewer voting. To improve student experiences to realistic learning environments, several papers have integrated design competition into their curriculum. Their methods show significant improvement on student motivation, team collaboration, and participant entertainment created by such a competition. Blust and Myszka 1 discussed their design competition applied to a senior design project course. Past projects, funded by outside companies, were assigned to several teams of students. Each team, given the same problem and requirement, would work in an isolated area without seeing the other teams’ progress. At the end of semester, they presented the solutions to clients for consideration. Dave and Boronkay 2 incorporated national design competition projects into the course. Students in the class were also divided into several teams and given the specific requirements to work on. In 3, 4 the methods were similar to previous papers but they were constrained by the limited budget per project.

Inspired by the television show “American Inventor” 5, our method tries to involve the design competition with a larger number of audiences. While most goals and methods are conducted in

Kimbrough, M., & Chrysler, R., & Sukittanon, S. (2010, June), Increase Student Project Outcome In Embedded System Course Through Design Competition Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16053

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