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Use of the Arduino Platform for a Junior-Level Undergraduate Microprocessors Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Best of Computers in Education Division

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1600.1 - 22.1600.11



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Paper Authors


Nathaniel Bird Ohio Northern University

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Nathaniel Bird is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering at Ohio Northern University. He received his doctorate from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Research interests include computer vision, robotics, behavior analysis, and undergraduate pedagogy. Dr. Bird is a member of ACM, IEEE, and Tau Beta Pi.

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Use of the Arduino Platform for Junior-Level Undergraduate Microprocessor CoursesThis paper outlines the benefits of incorporating the open-source Arduino platform into ajunior-level course on microprocessors for electrical engineering and computer engineeringmajors. A description of a course using these components is provided, as well as resultsdemonstrating students’ learning of microprocessors through their ability to developsolutions using them, and survey results characterizing student enthusiasm for learning thematerial in this manner.Using the Arduino platform was found to be beneficial for several reasons. The first isstudent enthusiasm. The device is an open-source hardware platform that is programmedusing an open-source IDE, which resonates with many students. Development for thisplatform is something they can do on their own laptops, which is more inviting thandeveloping on restricted software for a bolted-down piece of hardware in a locked lab.The second main benefit is the platform’s accessibility to the students. This course isdesigned for students from two different programs–electrical engineering majors with verylittle programming experience, and computer engineering majors with significantprogramming experience. The Arduino boards are advertised to be straight forward to useand program; they are designed for use by artists and hobbyists. The C++ likeprogramming language used to program the board is far easier to grasp for students withlittle programming experience than the register-based assembly language used in previousiterations of this course. This frees the class from an endless struggle with syntax, andfocuses attention instead on the projects at hand.The third advantage is time. Arduino boards are inexpensive enough that it is reasonablefor the students to each purchase their own board for the class. This allows them to usethe boards at home as well as in the lab. The labs for this course are three hours per week,for a ten week quarter. This totals to 30 hours at most, which is not enough time to buildproficiency if the equipment can only be used in lab. Because the students have their ownboards though, they can now use them at home and get more time with them over theduration of the course.Finally, the fourth benefit of using the Arduino platform is it opens up the possibility ofhaving the students do individual, quarter-long projects. This lets students investigatesomething that excites them personally, and invests them in the learning process. It alsorequires learning outside of the confines of the classroom and even the book, as moststudents decide to pursue projects dealing with complex behaviors and bizarre components.

Bird, N. (2011, June), Use of the Arduino Platform for a Junior-Level Undergraduate Microprocessors Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18410

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