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Technologies To Introduce Embedded Design Early In Engineering

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Embedded Computing

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1376.1 - 12.1376.11



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Paper Authors

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Shekhar Sharad National Instruments

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

Technologies to Introduce Embedded Design Early in Engineering Shekhar Sharad Academic Product Manager National Instruments

1. Introduction With decreasing cost of silicon and increasing demand on features, almost every device around us is becoming “embedded”[1] – from cell phones to irons, from cars to GPS units. Embedded devices are being used in every industry, in aerospace, mechanical, chemical and even biomedical engineering. That said, there is a need to create excitement and awareness about this exciting and pervasive field to the students freshly enrolled in engineering because no matter which major they choose, they will eventually have to deal with embedded devices. It is also widely acknowledged that embedded programming is not trivial and hence may not be the most appropriate form to be introduced early in the engineering career; hence, there is a continual search for better tools and techniques to teach with embedded devices early in engineering. One of the more promising methodologies available today is Graphical Programming.

2. Why Embedded Devices Early? Given the programming complexity for embedded devices, it warrants the question, “Why Embedded Devices early in engineering? Why can’t some other form of instrumentation be introduced?” The reasoning is simple, in order to create excitement in engineering among students today, we must use objects that resonate with them – which they have seen or used in their everyday life. Today, the teenagers see the following devices – MP3 players, cell phones, digital cameras, camcorders etc. These are all embedded devices and almost all of these devices seem to have more and more features being built into them. Hence, it makes it very interesting for the students if they can design/program a hardware platform to play MP3s, or take pictures and process them. As students, their minds resonate with these kinds of platforms and help to get them engaged in engineering which forms a good base to introduce other forms of instrumentation later on in their career

Another key reason for educators is the cost involved. The cost of buying traditional instrumentation is very high. With the introduction of Virtual Instrumentation[2], this has been addressed to a large extent, and embedded devices are the lowest cost devices today. Hence, embedded devices form one of the best platforms to introduce early in engineering because of their cost benefits and their ability to resonate with what the students see in their daily life. This does pose a problem – with the complexity of programming these devices, how do we raise the level of abstraction so that freshmen engineering students can take advantage of these platforms?

3. Need for Higher Level of Abstraction Traditional programming techniques for embedded devices need prospective embedded programmers to know C, C++ or VHDL in-depth in order to perform bit-level operations. This is a valid approach for optimization purposes. However, most freshman and sophomore engineering students do not have such in-depth knowledge in programming; moreover, the

Sharad, S. (2007, June), Technologies To Introduce Embedded Design Early In Engineering Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2424

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