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Teaching Embedded Systems Using Multiple Micro Controllers

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.481.1 - 4.481.8

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Paper Authors

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David Phillips

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C. Richard Helps

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

Session 3547

Teaching Embedded Systems Using Multiple Microcontrollers

C. Richard G. Helps, David P. Phillips Electronics Engineering Technology, Brigham Young University


Embedded control systems and in particular microcontrollers are used in virtually every electronic system. It is essential that EET students be conversant with this technology. Students need to have a clear understanding of the diversity of embedded systems. They also need to be familiar with a range of development tools, operating systems and languages.

The characteristics of embedded systems add specific challenges to their development. They necessarily involve both hardware and software, and the software often has real-time constraints. Their development and debugging therefore require structured design techniques and good understanding of software design principles. Software is frequently developed in C or assembly code, often without the benefit of sophisticated or even standardized development tools. Data books for these devices are often obscure and good reference books are scarce.

A microcontroller development system has been created for EET students at BYU. The development system forms the "textbook" for a class in embedded real-time systems. Students combine the theory of real-time systems with the practice of microcontroller systems development. They each develop a data acquisition unit using most of the features available in microcontrollers. The unit interfaces to sensors, actuators, LCD displays and serial ports using different microcontroller architectures. The final data acquisition system can then be used for later classes or projects or reprogrammed for other applications.

1. Embedded Microcontrollers are an Important Topic in EET programs

Embedded controllers are found in many modern products ranging through consumer electronics, cars, industrial control, medical systems and communication. They serve as the primary intelligence for many products or as simple intelligent interfaces between systems. Microcontrollers are even replacing simple mechanical switches in many systems. A recent survey1 indicated that for every 75 million desktop computers sold each year approximately 2.3 billion microcontrollers are sold. Another survey estimates that as many as 11 billion microcontrollers of all types were sold in 1997 2. In the automobile market one estimate3 indicates that as many as 40 million cars are produced each year that typically include four major microprocessors and dozens of low-end chips.

Mechanical engineering departments have also recognized the importance of this technology. In recent years many of them have started “Mechatronics” programs using microcontrollers as the intelligent element in the system.

Phillips, D., & Helps, C. R. (1999, June), Teaching Embedded Systems Using Multiple Micro Controllers Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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