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Web Based Learning Tools On Microprocessor Fundamentals For A First Year Engineering Course

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Virtual & Distance Experiments

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1296.1 - 8.1296.12

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Paper Authors

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Jucain Butler

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Jay Brockman

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

Session 1426

Session 2426

Session 2526

Web-based Learning Tools on Microprocessor Fundamentals for a First-Year Engineering Course

Jucain Butler, Dr. Jay B. Brockman University of Notre Dame


We present two self-paced, web-based learning tools that introduce computer concepts by simulating a simplified computer we call the Fundamental Computer, and the more complex Lego Mindstorm's RCX processor. The learning tools were developed for use in the Introduction to Engineering Systems course at the University of Notre Dame. The course takes a multi-disciplinary approach to engineering, and two of four course projects involve the RCX. The learning tools expose students to what goes on under the hood of a computer, and, in conjunction with a physical laboratory project, give them a sense of working on a real workplace assignment. The Fundamental Computer is similar to the “File Clerk” explanation in Richard Feynman’s Lectures on Computation. The simulator for this computer can input and output values, perform basic arithmetic operations, and control the execution of a program, while the simulator for the RCX processor works for a substantial portion of the NotQuiteC programming language instruction set. Included in the learning tools are a set of reference materials that explain technical concepts, a Java, web-based simulator of each of the computers, and a set of step-by-step instructions for proceeding through the execution of some pre-written, demonstration programs. Both tools have been used by over 300 first-year engineering students who go on to major in various engineering disciplines. Because the learning tool is web-based, it is also available to any institution that wishes to use it. . In this paper we discuss our motivation for creating these tools and their implementation, as well as results from student surveys and suggestions for successfully incorporating web-based learning tools into traditional courses.


The versatility of the World Wide Web as a learning tool has allowed it to be used in engineering courses. Some courses use web-based, virtual laboratories exclusively to replace traditional, physical labs, and in other courses virtual labs are not being used at all.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Butler, J., & Brockman, J. (2003, June), Web Based Learning Tools On Microprocessor Fundamentals For A First Year Engineering Course Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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