This paper describes the authors' experiences using a new approach for teaching an embedded systems design course and the associated laboratory, using the mbed online development environment.
A cloud-based C/C++ compiler and file server are used for software development along with a low-cost 32-bit microcontroller board. Student resources include an eBook, web-based reference materials and assignments, an online user forum, and wiki pages with sample microcontroller application code.
In laboratory assignments, breadboards are used to rapidly build prototype systems using the microcontroller, networking, and other I/O subsystems using small breakout boards with a wide variety of sensors, displays, and drivers.
Software development is done in any web browser, all student files are stored on the web server, and downloading code to the microcontroller functions in the same way as a simple USB flash drive.
The module itself can plug into a standard student solderless breadboard. A USB cable connects it to a PC and for downloading code during software development it functions just like a USB flash drive.
Power is provided by the USB cable. The USB interface can also function as a virtual com port allowing mbed programs to perform “printfs” or “scanfs” using any terminal application running on the PC.
All students in the class can get a free password to setup an account on the cloud compiler with space for file storage. Course instructors can request and obtain these passwords via email.
Source files and documentation are saved on the mbed server. This means that there is no software to install and maintain, and development can move anywhere to any machine with a web browser.
So students can easily work in the lab or at home on their projects. Most students can have a “hello world” application running on mbed in under five minutes.
To read this external content in full, download the paper from the author archives at Georgia Institute of Technology.