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Modern Embedded Systems as a Platform for Problem Solving in Freshman Engineering: What is the Best Option?

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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

Recruitment, Retention and First-year Programs in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.911.1 - 23.911.12



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Paper Authors

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John W Pritchard Iowa State University

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Mani Mina Iowa State University

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Modern Embedded Systems as a Platform for Problem Solving in Freshman Engineering: What is the Best Option?Students today are met with a plethora of hobby electronics projects that can be easily completed withthe wide variety of online resources and extensive documentation. Many of these projects include theuse of high level embedded systems that serve as a “black box” for electronic control of sensors,actuators, motors, wireless communication, and other complex systems. Recently, a trend has emergedin which these development platforms have become smaller, easier to use, open source, and affordable.This trend has enabled interesting projects that aim to introduce new technologies, inspire technologicaldirection, provide capabilities to the underprivileged, and also to educate. In particular, many of thesedevelopment platforms have made their way to the classroom, especially for early engineering educationwith the focus of problem solving. However, there are many different systems to choose from with avariety of capabilities from an assortment of vendors, and some may or may not be suitable foreducational purposes.When choosing the appropriate embedded systems platform for the engineering classroom, it isproposed that four parameters be defined with respect to the different systems: hardware transparency,software transparency, ease-of-use, and academic justification. Hardware transparency refers to the levelat which the student “sees through” the hardware to focus on the software, while, similarly, softwaretransparency refers to the level at which the student sees through the software to focus on the hardware.Platforms that are easy to use are those that have little overhead upon purchasing. Meaning, howadaptable they are in the wide range of engineering labs. Lastly, academic justification is defined as howappropriate the system is with respect to the goals of the course. This includes taking into account thelevels of hardware and software transparencies and how well they are aligned with the problem-solvingnature of the course.This work presents a comparison of such systems currently available on the basis of the proposedparameters. In addition, a unique decision map is provided so that future development systems can beclassified and paired with an appropriate problem-solving course.

Pritchard, J. W., & Mina, M. (2013, June), Modern Embedded Systems as a Platform for Problem Solving in Freshman Engineering: What is the Best Option? Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22296

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