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Increasing Student Interest Through Hardware Ownership

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Capstone/Design Projects: Information/Computer ET

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.751.1 - 10.751.7

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Paper Authors

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Samuel Colwell

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Richard Warren

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Rich Warren

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

Session 2147

Increasing Student Interest Through Hardware Ownership Samuel Colwell and Rich Warren Vermont Technical College, Randolph Center, Vermont


With the significant drop in cost of embedded microcontrollers,1, 3 there now exists an opportunity to give every student a trainer that they can take home to work on and can keep at the end of the semester. At Vermont Technical College, one of the courses has been modified to include a Microchip PIC16F877 based trainer board. The trainer board comes in kit form (a PCB and components) and the students assemble the board and then use it in several labs and a small project at the end of the semester. This paper details the trainer board itself and the benefits it has brought to VTC and its students.


Vermont Technical College has previously used lab based microcontroller boards in several of its courses. These have included ISA bus extenders, 68HC11/12 trainers, and 386 trainers. All of these trainers have been used and stored in the labs and are only available to students during lab times and during the evenings when lab monitors are present. Starting three years ago, we introduced a PIC16F877 based microcontroller trainer board kit (Figure 1) that the students assemble, use in lab, and take home with them to keep. The board is simple enough to allow most troubleshooting to be performed with a volt meter, yet powerful enough to develop applications that use pushbuttons, LEDs, LCD interfacing, timers, RS-232, PWM, interrupts, EEPROM, and A/D conversion.

Over the last three years, we have noticed some distinct differences between students using their own trainer boards and the VTC owned trainers kept in the labs. Students have shown much more enthusiasm in getting labs to work on their trainers, and the equipment is better maintained and repaired immediately upon failure. Because students have to fix their own boards (with assistance from faculty) when they break them, the students are less likely to accidentally short outputs or overvoltage inputs. Figure1: The trainer board kit

This paper describes the trainer board in detail as well as applications and student reactions.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Colwell, S., & Warren, R., & Warren, R. (2005, June), Increasing Student Interest Through Hardware Ownership Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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