The ability to develop algorithms for microcontroller-based systems has traditionally required a computer science background. Many undergraduate mechanical engineering programs lack the time in the curriculum to devote to the necessary coursework. This paper presents a graphical method of developing algorithms. The method enables engineering students with weak computer science backgrounds to rapidly iterate microcontroller programs. The proposed method uses Simulink and chip-specific Simulink blocksets to access microcontroller inputs, outputs, internal timers, and other chip functions. Before- and after- observations from the implementation of the method in a mechatronics course are presented. The proposed method is compared to the traditional C language method of developing an algorithm. It is shown that it is easier to convey the algorithm in the Simulink implementation than it is to convey the C-language implementation of the same algorithm. It is quicker to develop algorithms using the Simulink-based method. The method is relevant in constrained undergraduate engineering programs, particularly mechanical engineering, where there is little instruction in computer programming. The method is scalable to industrial applications outside academia although it is not yet widely used there.
Teaching Microcontroller Programming Graphically
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Rogers, JR, & Avdashchenko, K. "Teaching Microcontroller Programming Graphically." Proceedings of the ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition. Volume 5: Engineering Education and Professional Development. Denver, Colorado, USA. November 11–17, 2011. pp. 117-121. ASME. https://doi.org/10.1115/IMECE2011-64169
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