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Transformation of an Introductory Computer Engineering Course Utilizing Microprocessors and a Focus on Hardware Limitations

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 11

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Charles Carlson Kansas State University Orcid 16x16

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Mr. Charles Carlson is a Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Kansas State University, and he is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. He works in the biomedical lab, and is a teaching assistant for ECE 241: Introduction to Computer Engineering. He is interested in engineering education, biotechnology, and bioinstrumentation.

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Dwight Day Kansas State University

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Dwight Day received his Bachelors, Masters and PhD from Oklahoma State University, in 1980, 1981 and 1987. Dwight was an engineer at Texas Instruments 1983-1985, and Boeing Military Airplanes from 1987 to 1990. Dwight is an Associate Professor at Kansas State University, where he has been teaching and doing research since 1990. Dwight has taught classes in digital design, microprocessor applications, numerical methods, digital image processing and digital signal processing. Dwight's research area have ranged from image processing for quality control to signal processing for road-profiling. Dwight has also done research for Sandia National Labs (High Performance Computing) and NASA (Low-Power Communications).

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In today’s world, we are surrounded by microprocessors embedded into almost every electronic device we use. It is no surprise then that the area of embedded system design has seen tremendous growth in recent years. For the fall semester of 2015, the authors’ institute transformed its introductory computer engineering course with the goals of advancing the course’s curriculum and improving student retention in the department. The growing field of embedded systems was one of the motivations for the transformation. The focus of the class shifted from hardware design to microprocessor based systems, specifically utilizing the Arduino platform. The idea of using Arduinos in introductory engineering courses is not a new idea, however, for our transformation we wanted to make sure that students still understood the limitations of hardware, which is something that can be easily overlooked in simple microprocessor designs. Another motivation for the transition was to give students more practical experience with the interplay of hardware and software. Thus, the course is heavily based on practical laboratory experiments. With the Arduino platform, students gain insight into microcontroller programming with hands-on learning. Coupled with the Digilent Analog Discovery’s logic analyzer, students gain understanding of not only software, but of the timing limitations of hardware as well. A survey has been used measure the effectiveness of the transformation. Retention rates will be used as well once more data has been collected in the upcoming semesters. The survey measured the student’s confidence in the core topics of the class. The survey was first conducted in the follow-up computer engineering course before the majority of the students had taken the new version of the introductory course. Therefore, a control group was created to which future semester survey results will be compared to. Only preliminary survey results are presented in this paper, since the transformation has only been implemented for the last three semesters. Preferred presentation - poster session

Carlson, C., & Day, D. (2017, June), Transformation of an Introductory Computer Engineering Course Utilizing Microprocessors and a Focus on Hardware Limitations Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29041

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