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Teaching Networked Embedded Control at the Two-year College Level

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Arduinos, Microcontrollers, Inexpensive Robotics, and Other Tech Bytes

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1254.1 - 25.1254.10



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Paper Authors


Gary J. Mullett Springfield Technical Community College

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Gary J. Mullett, a professor of electronics technology and Co-department Chair, presently teaches in the Electronics Group at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) located in Springfield, Mass. A long time faculty member and consultant to local business and industry, Mullett has provided leadership and initiated numerous curriculum reforms as either the Chair or Co-department Chair of the four technology degree programs that constitute the Electronics Group. Since the mid-1990s, he has been active in the NSF’s ATE and CCLI programs as a knowledge leader in the wireless telecommunications field. A Co-founder of the National Center for Telecommunications Technologies (now the ICT Center) located at STCC, Mullett also played a principle role in the development of the innovative and long running Verizon NextStep employee training program. The author of three text books: Basic Telecommunications - The Physical Layer, Wireless Telecommunications Systems and Networks, and Electronics at the System Level, Mullett did both his undergraduate and graduate work in the ECE Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he also taught the undergraduate sequence of courses in electromagnetics. He has presented at numerous regional and national conferences and also internationally on telecommunications and wireless topics and on the status of the education of electronics technicians at the two-year college level. His current interests are in the transformation of electronics technician education to incorporate a systems-level approach and applications of the emerging field of wired and wireless networked embedded controllers and sensor networks.

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Teaching Networked Embedded Control at the Two-Year College LevelDuring the next decade, we will witness the implementation of several large scale technicallyenabled innovations involving this nation’s electrical power grid and the interstate highwaysystem and many other smaller, discipline specific, intelligent infrastructure systems that willenhance the efficiency, safety, and security of human endeavors. Some describe the process ofadding intelligence and connectivity to these systems as the creation of the “Internet of Things”or IoT. Already, academic and industry experts in various technical fields have given catchynames to these proposed systems: Smart Grid, IntelliDrive, Smart Buildings, Smart Home, e-health care, are but a few names that have made it into the popular press. These large scale andnot so large scale applications are becoming possible due to the convergence of several keytechnologies. Essentially, through the use of networked embedded controllers (known as ambientintelligence) and complex sensors and actuators (i.e. sensor networks) one is able to createintelligent infrastructure systems that have the potential to change almost every aspect ofmankind’s interaction with the environment.The understanding of the theory and operation of networked embedded controllers and theirinteraction with sensors and actuators will be one of the required skills needed to deal with theseemerging technology applications. This paper will present details about a two course sequencethat is designed for students at the two-year college level in the second year of an ElectronicSystems Engineering Technology AS degree program. These two courses consist of both theoryand laboratory work with a heavy reliance on student projects (typically, of an interdisciplinarynature) that involve the implementation of functional, proto-type, sensor/control networks. Usingpopular low-cost PIC® microcontroller development boards and a small, self-contained, non-ITTCP/IP data network, students are able to construct sensor/control networks that can be accessedlocally either through standard wired network connections (Ethernet) or wirelessly using theIEEE 802.15.4 wireless standard (Zig-Bee) or remotely through available mobile device apps.The course’s successes and failures will be high-lighted, along with student reaction, examplesof student projects, and conclude with ideas for future course improvements and/or adaptation toother formats or disciplines.

Mullett, G. J. (2012, June), Teaching Networked Embedded Control at the Two-year College Level Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22011

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