Asee peer logo

The Effect of Project Constraints and Choice on First-year Microcontroller Projects

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 5: Using Video, Games, and More in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1522.1 - 26.1522.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Thomas Shepard University of St. Thomas

author page

Jeunghwan Choi East Carolina University


Tyler D. Holmes University of Saint Thomas

visit author page

Tyler Holmes is an Electrical Engineering (B.S.) and Physics (B.A.) major at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is originally from Eagle Lake, MN and will be graduating in May, 2016.

visit author page

author page

Broderick William Carlin

Download Paper |


The Effect of Project Constraints and Choice on First-Year Microcontroller ProjectsLiterature on self-determination theory suggests that giving students a choice can lead to manypositive effects, however too much choice can actually be detrimental. This paper discusses theeffect that the project constraint level has on student performance and perception during projectswhich require the use of microcontrollers. The projects were implemented in an introduction toengineering course that consists of both electrical and mechanical engineering students at anurban, private institution in the Midwest. This one credit course consists of a single 100 minutelecture and lab each week during a 14 week semester and details of the in-class and lab timededicated to the project are described.In this course, students were given a choice between hands-on Arduino (a microcontroller)projects which differed in the amount of freedom students had over the components used andproject objective. Three projects were offered which had a clearly defined objective andspecified exactly which sensors and actuators to use in meeting those objectives. A more open-ended project was also offered in which students could choose their sensors and actuators fromtwelve different components and develop their own project objective. Pre-project surveys were used to gage student interest level in the various projects, sensors andactuators as well as their experience with microcontrollers and programming. Students wereassigned to the project for which they rated the highest interest. Of the 133 students whoparticipated, 93% had not worked with microcontrollers before entering college. A post projectsurvey was used to assess the amount of time spent, perceived difficulty of the various projects,perceived learning and biggest challenges presented by each project. To examine how theamount of choice relates to student outcomes on a project the survey results and project grades ofstudents who chose a clearly defined project are compared to those who developed their ownproject. This paper further discusses open-ended feedback relating to the microcontrollerproject implementation, challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Shepard, T., & Choi, J., & Holmes, T. D., & Carlin, B. W. (2015, June), The Effect of Project Constraints and Choice on First-year Microcontroller Projects Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24860

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015