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Microcontroller Animation

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.324.1 - 1.324.4

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Paper Authors

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Neal S. Widmer

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

.—. Session 3547

Microcontroller Animation

Neal S. Widmer Purdue University

Abstract Students in a typical Associates level technology curriculum go from studying relatively simple sequential logic circuits like counters and registers, to trying to understand and apply a microprocessor. As a result many students have great difficulty visualizing and truly understanding the flow of data inside a computer system. Verbal descriptions accompanying diagrams are adequate for some learners to grasp the operation, but many students need more. By animating the operation of a simple 8-bit microcontroller throughout the execution of a program, it is believed that the more visually oriented and mechanically minded students can be helped to see the big picture. Development of software to graphically animate this operation is currently under way. This paper attempts to justify the need of this method of instruction as well as describe the current progress toward the intended end.

Background Try to recall a subject that you learned in school that involved a complicated sequence of operations, As an example this author recalls eighth grade shop class and the study of the internal combustion engine. What were the key elements in presenting this subject that caused a reasonably deep understanding to take root in the mind of a 13 year old boy. Was it the verbal description of the characteristics of piston rings? Or the play by play description of the four cycles; intake, compression, power and exhaust? I am sure that these elements contributed to my understanding but when I recall that lesson, the picture in my mind is not of the teacher talking or the overhead slides but rather of seeing an actual engine block with the crank rotating, the piston moving, etc. This is what defined the elements of the system in my mind. And yet memorizing the motion of each element was worth little without understanding the relationship to the other elements in the mechanical wonder. What was it that embedded that understanding of relationships and purpose? The animated film that was presented showing the relationship between piston motion, valve position, cylinder pressure and ignition timing comes instantly to mind and I can still play it back today in my mind’s eye. Is this because I am a visual learner? Felder [1,2, 3] has written extensively regarding the role of learning styles in classroom teaching. But I am convinced that most if not all students benefit from seeing such a process operate. If I were assigned today to teach the internal combustion engine, I would be looking for a model engine or cut up Briggs and Stratton and searching the archives for a 16mm film from the late 60s. (Perhaps now on video!) Unfortunately, I don’t teach engines. I teach microprocessors,,, Introduction to Microprocessors... to sophomores. These students have had two prerequisite courses in digital logic. They studied gates, decoders, flip flops, counters, memory devices, tri-state busses . . . . all the elements of complex digital machines, They have

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{tii~j 1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings ‘Oyllm’.:

Widmer, N. S. (1996, June), Microcontroller Animation Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

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