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Work-in-Progress: Using Hardware-based Programming Experiences to Enhance Student Learning in a Senior Feedback Controls Lecture Course

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Computers in Education (CoED) Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1396.1 - 23.1396.13



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Paper Authors


Johne' M Parker University of Kentucky

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Johné M. Parker is an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Kentucky.

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Stephen L. Canfield Tennessee Technological University


Sheikh Khaled Ghafoor Tennesse Technological University

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Sheikh Ghafoor is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Tennessee Technological University. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Mississippi State University. His primary research includes parallel, distributed computing, and high performance computing. His current research is in autonomic resource management for high performance computing environment, programming model for parallel adaptive applications, and fault tolerant computing. Dr. Ghafoor is also very interested, and actively engaged in research in the area of computer science and engineering education. Dr. Ghafoor has been principal investigators and investigator on grants from NSF and DOE.

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Kassy Moy Lum

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Using Hardware-based Programming Experiences to Enhance Student Learning in a Senior Feedback Controls Lecture Course  This paper describes enhancements in the re-design and implementation of a senior MechanicalEngineering Feedback Controls course. Though several changes in course design were made over thesequence of three successive offerings of the course, the primary focus of this paper is the students’ability to apply programming and computational problem-solving skills to understand and solve Controlsproblems. This investigation builds upon a model to use hardware to integrate programming experiencesthroughout the curriculum; in the model, the three learning principles deemed critical for success arestudent engagement, knowledge transfer and self-directed learning. In traditional Controls lecturecourses, core course concepts are generally considered to be a bit abstract to a considerable percentage ofstudents and there are often disconnects between theoretical course concepts, computational solutiontechniques and the behavior of real-world systems. Each of these challenges inhibit the three principlesdeemed critical for success and it is posited in this paper that the introduction of programming involvinghardware will enhance the three principles, resolve disconnects and improve overall student learning. The re-design introduces programming experiences performed on microcontroller hardware toillustrate key topics and solution methods (e.g., system modeling and controller design) into a traditionalFeedback Controls lecture course. The instructor had previously taught the course numerous times, so awell-paced course schedule and solid foundation of course notes were already in place. Additionally,hybrid and problem-based learning (PBL) techniques had been incorporated into prior offerings, whichenhanced student engagement and allowed both the sufficient time to introduce programming modulesand the ability of the instructor/research assistant (RA)/teaching assistant (TA) team to give necessaryassistance and feedback during the programming experiences. A hands-on programming toolkit has been developed by [xx]* for direct programming ofmicrocontroller units (MCUs) using MatLab as the programming environment. Using this toolkit, MCUsare used to teach initial programming skills to engineering students in a context that matches their notionsof engineering. In the Feedback Controls course, the model is used to enhance programming skills in in acontext that enhances senior students’ understanding of a somewhat abstract area of MechanicalEngineering. The overall goal is for students to be able to apply and observe the implementation ofcontrol algorithms on real-world hardware, without being hampered by significant obstacles orrequirements for implementation. The Matlab-to-MCU toolbox effectively addresses this challenge,allowing students to implement their control algorithms using Matlab, a language they have previouslyused to simulate system response, “directly” on microcontrollers with little additional overheadrequirements. In particular, a series of labs developed for the Course are implemented using the MatLab-to-MCUtoolbox via a Motorola processor implemented on a Dragon12 evaluation board. An evaluation of theearly implementation of these labs is discussed and compared to the traditional (lecture-based) andhybrid-learning/problem-based formats. The paper concludes with a discussion of the efficacy of thismodel in an upper-level course and plans for future work.*[xx] – Specific reference to developers of toolkit removed for double‐blind review of abstract  

Parker, J. M., & Canfield, S. L., & Ghafoor, S. K., & Lum, K. M. (2013, June), Work-in-Progress: Using Hardware-based Programming Experiences to Enhance Student Learning in a Senior Feedback Controls Lecture Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22782

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