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Wireless-Integrated Embedded Real-Time Control: A Case Study in Adopting Resources for Development of a Low-Cost Interdisciplinary Laboratory Project

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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

New Trends in ECE Education

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1693.1 - 22.1693.12



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Paper Authors


Paul G. Flikkema Northern Arizona University

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Paul G. Flikkema received the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. From 1993 - 1998, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida, and joined Northern Arizona University as an Associate Professor in January 1999, where he is currently Professor of Electrical Engineering. He has been a JSPS Visiting Researcher at Yokohama National University, a Visiting Research Scientist at Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Tokyo, and a Nokia Fellow at Helsinki University of Technology. In 2007, he co-organized a U.S.-France Workshop on Sensor Networks and the Environment sponsored by the French government. In Spring 2008, he was a Visitor at SAMSI, where was Program Leader of SAMSI’s Program on Environmental Sensor Networks.

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Kenji Ryan Yamamoto Northern Arizona University


Carol Haden Magnolia Consulting, LLC

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Carol Haden is a Senior Consultant for Magnolia Consulting, LLC, a small woman-owned research and evaluation company based out of Charlottesville, Virgina. For the past eight years, she has specialized in the evaluation of informal and formal STEM education programs. Dr. Haden has evaluated projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Arizona Board of Regents, and the Arizona Department of Education.

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Jeff Frolik University of Vermont


Tom Weller University of South Florida

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Thomas M. Weller received the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1988, 1991, and 1995, respectively, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. From 1988 - 1990, he worked at Hughes Aircraft Company in El Segundo, CA. He joined the University of South Florida in 1995 where he is currently a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Engineering.

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Wireless-Integrated Embedded Real-Time Control: A Case Study in Adopting Resources for Development of a Low- Cost Interdisciplinary Laboratory ProjectAbstractIn the last decade, it has become apparent that the grand challenge problems of this century spandisciplines. In spite of this, engineering curricula are still strongly stovepiped, even within eachengineering discipline, and both inertia and downward budget pressures encourage curricularconservatism. At the same time, the need is urgent to expose students to the diversity andcomplexity of real-world problems where there is no “best” solution. How should we helpstudents learn across disciplines and blend disciplinary knowledge to solve problems?This paper describes a laboratory project suitable for courses in areas of control and embeddedsystems that weaves critical aspects of control systems design with real-time embedded systemshardware and software, and along the way incorporates additional skills and tools. The projectbuilds on previous efforts that have used the classic “ball-in-tube” experimental platform. Wehave developed an extremely low-cost experimental platform that student teams assemble fromsimple parts (e.g., shoeboxes and muffin fans), and that uses wireless communication betweenthe real-time platform and a personal computer that provides a human interface and analyticaltools. For real-time data acquisition and control, we adopted the CLIO platform that wasdesigned for the experiential component of MUSE, a pedagogical project to increase the abilityof students to become conversant in skills related to systems thinking. In this spirit, the projectexposes students to experimentation, modeling and design across system layers. While tacklingthe project, students also become more adept at (i) architecting distributed applications thatintegrate embedded and desktop computing systems, (ii) data acquisition, including measurementnoise and signal conditioning, (iii) actuation, including motor control, and (iv) wirelesscommunication. We present early assessment results evaluating how effectively the projecthelps students build critical systems-thinking skills, and the challenges of adopting resources forfast-tracking the development of new laboratory projects.

Flikkema, P. G., & Yamamoto, K. R., & Haden, C., & Frolik, J., & Weller, T. (2011, June), Wireless-Integrated Embedded Real-Time Control: A Case Study in Adopting Resources for Development of a Low-Cost Interdisciplinary Laboratory Project Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18530

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