Sustainable approach to teaching embedded systems with hands-on project-based visible learning
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonInternational Journal of Engineering Education. 2021, 37 (3), 814-829.
Although purchasing state-of-the-art teaching equipment may be financially demanding, substantial efforts are being made at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim to provide students with an enhanced hands-on embedded system design experience in a sustainable manner. In particular, an approach that consists of adopting low-cost commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components and tools for learning purposes is proposed in this work. This strategy effectively combines both industry standard highly-reliable automation controllers, such as Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) technology, as well as novel microcontrollers (i.e., the micro:bit microcontroller based on the nRF51822 system-on-chip (SoC)) explicitly designed for use in embedded systems education. This contributes towards a hands-on sustainable learning experience based on the applicability of Visible Learning (VL). The objective of this paper is to propose a novel organisation of the embedded systems module for the engineering cybernetics education curriculum. The intended outcome is to promote a novel teaching approach. This is achieved by engaging students in both a series of organised theoretical lectures as well as practical and highly involving laboratory group projects. Surface learning sections and deep learning sections are thoroughly alternated to stimulate understanding, making relations, and extending the students’ knowledge. The course organisation and main topics, as well as result analysis of student surveys are discussed. The survey results and feedback from the reference group indicate that the course organisation and topics are effective and helpful for the students. Key words: embedded systems, education, programming, micro:bit