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Microcontrollers for Mechanical Engineers: From Assembly Language to Controller Implementation

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session


Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.905.1 - 23.905.9



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Paper Authors


Noah Salzman Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Noah Salzman is a graduate student in engineering education at Purdue University. He received his B.S. in engineering from Swarthmore College, his M.Ed. in secondary science
education from University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. He has worked as an engineer and has taught science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at the high school level. His research focuses on the intersection of pre-college and undergraduate engineering programs.

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Peter H. Meckl Purdue University School of Mechanical Engineering

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Peter H. Meckl is a Professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering, where he has served since 1988. Peter obtained his BSME from Northwestern University and MSME and Ph.D. degrees from MIT. His research interests are primarily in dynamics and control of machines, with emphasis on vibration reduction, motion control, and engine diagnostics. His teaching responsibilities include courses in systems modeling, measurement systems, and control. In addition, he teaches a course entitled Technology and Values, which introduces students to the social and environmental impacts of technology through a series of readings and discussions. Peter received the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for outstanding teaching in 2000. He spent a semester in the Institute of Measurement and Control Engineering at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, in spring 2005, conducting research and teaching on autonomous vehicles.

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Microcontrollers for Mechanical Engineers: From Assembly Language to Controller ImplementationThis paper describes the evolution of a graduate and advanced undergraduate mechanicalengineering course on microcontrollers and electromechanical control systems. The coursebegins with developing an understanding of the architecture of the microcontroller, and low-levelprogramming in assembly language. It then proceeds to working with various functions of themicrocontroller, including serial communications, interrupts, analog to digital conversion, anddigital to analog conversion. Finally, the students learn how to characterize first and second ordersystems, and develop and implement their own controllers for a variety of electromechanicalsystems. The course takes the uncommon approach of teaching assembly language programmingto mechanical engineering students, with the students using assembly language programming forapproximately half of the course and the remainder using the C programming language. Theauthors believe that this approach helps students develop a better understanding of thearchitecture of the microcontroller and low-level routines found in embedded controlapplications. The course provides a bridge between traditional mechatronics courses that focuson electronics and interfacing, and lab-based control courses that use turnkey data acquisitionsystems and graphical programming tools such as Simulink or LabVIEW.The course has existed for over two decades, using a variety of microprocessor andmicrocontroller platforms. After evaluating numerous alternatives, the course was recentlyupdated to use a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller evaluation board fromSTMicroelectronics paired with custom interfacing circuitry. This platform was chosen not onlyfor more modern microcontroller technology, but also for the availability of free developmenttools and very inexpensive evaluation boards. This allows the students to write and test theirprograms outside of scheduled lab times, along with the ability to cost-effectively utilizemicrocontrollers in future projects.

Salzman, N., & Meckl, P. H. (2013, June), Microcontrollers for Mechanical Engineers: From Assembly Language to Controller Implementation Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22290

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