Re: Req. for Comment: course syllabus

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FWIW, I agree that good coursework in embedded systems is a worthwhile
thing to have.  I believe that a first course in embedded systems should
probably emphasize the types of things that are/can be done using embedded
systems.  An initial overview of embedded systems is probably in order.  I
didn't see it listed.  I apologize if it's in the syllabus and I missed it.
I have
in mind an overview of a microcontroller connected to various electrical
components and in some systems mechanical equipment beyond that.

I didn't get a sense of a time frame for the course.  Is this supposed to be
equivalent to a three semester hour course?

A good embedded systems designer needs to understand basic electrical
engineering along with programming, by virtue of the fact that the embedded
system is going to be connected to something electrical.  The next step
be an understanding of mechanical concepts, because a good number of
embedded systems actually drive machinery.  I would think some electrical
and computer background should be a prerequisite.

You might consider adding a section on connecting a microcontroller to
the outside world, emphasizing some of the problem areas - TTL-level
outputs, limited drive power available from an output pin, the joys of
real-world grounds, thermal issues, ...

Nit pic - you've mentioned both PIC16F876 and PIC16F877.

It seems to me that the circuit board layout using the CadSoft EAGLE
is superfluous.  Circuit board design and layout is an art in itself.
that's a completely different discipline than embedded design.  I'd
dropping the CadSoft Eagle part of the program - there's more than
enough material without it.

I'd suggest making the communication over an RS-232 port into a
second project.  If your students can make the lights flash *then* it's
time to move on to data over a serial port.  I don't understand the part
about the IP/V4 packet driver.  Are they going to build a programmer
that's driven from an ethernet connection?

It may be wishful thinking that your students will master embedded
system design, wiring up a circuit, programming the PIC chip in
multiple fashions, debugging, electrical troubleshooting, *and*
packetized communications, calibration to standards, data logging,
and diagnostics all in one course.

Finally, I'd strongly recommend adding a section on troubleshooting.
All embedded system designers have to troubleshoot their designs.
A section showing a system designed to be debugged (with appropriate
hooks) and an orderly troubleshooting process is worthy of being a
course by itself.

Hope this helps.
Bruce Raymond

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Star Trek serial cable. Was: Req. for Comment: course syllabus
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Thanks for the effort in producing this critique.  I have considered
each thing that you have written, and placed a considerably improved
syllabus at the same URL.


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