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Learning Embedded And Real Time Systems Via Low Cost Mobile Robotics

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.676.1 - 6.676.9



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Paul Flikkema

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

Session 1332

Learning Embedded and Real-Time Systems via Low-Cost Mobile Robotics

Paul G. Flikkema Electrical Engineering Department Northern Arizona University


The importance and impact of embedded and real-time computing systems on today’s society far exceed that of traditional stand-alone computers; it is hard to think of new device or system that does not embed some combination of silicon-based intelligence, sensing, and communication. A parallel trend is the growth of high-level, abstract design of these systems and associated lan- guages and CAD tools, driven by increasing processor speed, time-to-market requirements and the complexity of applications. However, many courses in embedded systems focus on low-level issues such as addressing, interrupts and interfacing. In this paper, we describe a new direction: a course with the goal of motivating students to learn the abstract concepts that underly the design of these systems via experiments that require the interaction of robots with the physical world. In this studio-format course, most conventional learning takes place outside the class, while small student teams design, build, and evaluate autonomous mobile robots in the classroom/laboratory. To keep costs down, mobile robots are created using LEGO parts and programmed in the high- level NQC language using the Robolab RCX microcontroller module. As the semester proceeds, students tackle an array of interrelated problems that motivate the study of sensor signal process- ing, control, scheduling, and resource sharing. In a final project, the students tackle a distributed intelligence project in which an odometry-equipped robot communicates with a PC-based pro- gram that tracks the robot’s position. To encourage adoption by other electrical engineering and computer engineering programs, a detailed description of the required resources and their cost is included.


There is no doubt that developments in microelectronics and computing technology in the last half of this century have changed modern life dramatically. But without equally dramatic improve- ments in understanding of underlying systems disciplines, among them digital and computer systems, communications and control systems, signal processing, and machine intelligence, we would not have most—if not all—the advances in transportation, consumer products, medical technology, and military capability that we take for granted.

These advances in the systems disciplines, with their foundation on mathematics and statistics, provide a great challenge for engineering educators: We are now in the position of graduating Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright c 2001, American Society for Engineering Education  

Flikkema, P. (2001, June), Learning Embedded And Real Time Systems Via Low Cost Mobile Robotics Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9503

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