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Using Arduino as a platform for programming, design and measurement in a freshman engineering 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

FPD VII: Innovative Curriculum Elements of Successful First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1609.1 - 22.1609.23



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Paper Authors


Gerald W. Recktenwald Portland State University

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Gerald Recktenwald is an Associate Professor and the Chair of the Mechanical and Materials Engineering Department at Portland State University. His current research interests are in improving engineering education, and in the numerical simulation and measurement of heat transfer in electronic equipment, energy efficient buildings, and other industrial applications.

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David E. Hall Louisiana Tech University

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Dr. David Hall is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Louisiana Tech University.

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Using Arduino as a Platform for Programming, Design and Measurement in a Freshman Engineering Course Arduino is a compact, inexpensive, open-source electronics prototyping platform builtaround an Atmel AVR microcontroller. Arduino is a single board system that is programmed viaUSB connection to a host computer. It has regulated and unregulated DC power, digital inputsand outputs, and analog inputs. The features, cost, and compact form factor makes Arduino apotent tool for introducing a large range of engineering concepts. In this paper we report on freshman engineering courses using the Living with the Lab(LWTL) Curriculum and the Arduino platform to teach programming, sensing, and control.LWTL was developed with the Boe-Bot mobile robotics platform and the Basic Stampmicrocontroller. The Boe-Bot has a large community of practitioners and high qualityeducational materials. The Arduino has emerged as a robust and easy-to-use platform with astrong community of developers and users. The Arduino is much more modern, and has bettertechnical features than the Basic Stamp. Although there many examples of using Arduino insimple projects, the breadth and quality of the educational materials for the Arduino does not yetmatch that of the Boe-Bot/Basic Stamp platform. The goal of the paper is to provide a case studyin the introduction of the newer microcontroller into a successful curriculum. The Arduino is part of a larger trend toward open source hardware fostered by a diversemix of private tinkerers and profit-making companies selling electronics kits. The broad interestand commercial viability of this platform makes it easy for academics to focus on thedevelopment of instructional materials, not on the design, fabrication, and support of thehardware platform. Consistent with the LWTL philosophy, each student gets their own kit withthe Arduino and electronic parts for less than $100. Students are also required to purchase a kitof basic hand tools, which costs no more than $75 (in 2010). The educational exercises beginwith using the parts in the commercial kit, and then grow to include hardware developedexclusively for LWTL. Two different implementations of the Arduino platform are described in this paper. AtUniversity AAA, an Arduino board was used to replace the Basic Stamp microcontroller on amobile robot platform. The curriculum closely follows the original LWTL curriculum developedfor the Boe-Bot mobile robot. At University BBB, the Arduino was used as the power supply andcontrol of a desktop fan instead of a mobile robot. This paper focuses on the changes to the LWTL curriculum to accommodate the Arduinoinstead of the Basic Stamp. Exercises used to teach programming, sensing and simple control aredescribed. The paper describes a work in progress as the Arduino implementation is happeningfor the first time in Fall 2010.

Recktenwald, G. W., & Hall, D. E. (2011, June), Using Arduino as a platform for programming, design and measurement in a freshman engineering course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18720

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