Hands-on Oriented Curriculum and Laboratory Development for Embedded System Design
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29-01-2010, 07:34 PM

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Hands-on Oriented Curriculum and Laboratory Development for Embedded System Design
As embedded systems are getting popular in industrial prod- uct designs, a dedicated teaching laboratory for embedded systems (EST Lab) has been setup for college and graduate students to get familiar with embedded system engineering and researches. In this paper, we present our experiences in embedded system education curriculum and teaching labo- ratory design carried out in the past few years. Accompa- nied by a series of courses with hands-on exercises, students can understand the whole picture of embedded systems in a more systematic way. To give students a comprehensive view of embedded systems, the curriculum includes not only em- bedded hardware architectures and operating systems but also embedded user-level software designs. We select the most popular and available open-source operating system, Linux 2.6, as the primary experimental platform for all lab- oratory practices. In addition to the course design, several research results derived from this laboratory are also pre- sented in this paper

submitted by
Yu-Lun Huang and Jwu-Sheng Hu
Department of Electrical and Control Engineering,
National Chiao-Tung University, Taiwan

Thanks to the advances of system-on-chip (SoC) technolo- gies, market size of embedded industries has expanded much quicker than it used to be. With the highly competition among this industry, product quality, cost and time-to- market pressure, all introduce more design burdens to em- bedded engineering. One of the trends to tackle this timely development requirement is to shift more of the design e_ort to embedded software side where the extension and modi_- cation could be prompt and more exible. As a result, the key enabler to a successful design is to rapidly develop and deploy innovative and stable embedded software modules. Since embedded software has not been su_ciently com- plex or general to warrant the e_ort, it has been ignored by academics for years [9]. However, this was changed re- cently with the increasing demands from industries. From the papers published in recent special issues and workshops dedicated to embedded system education [1][6][5][13], we can also observe the increasing interests paid by academic com- munity towards this area. In response to such a demand, Ministry of Education (MOE) of Taiwan has been running the VLSI Circuits and Systems Education Program since 1996. The embedded software consortium (ESW) [10], established in 2004, is funded by MOE Taiwan under the program. It addresses the challenges of embedded software for SoC systems. With the funding from MOE Taiwan and National Chiao-Tung University (NCTU), Department of Electrical and Control Engineering has set up an Embedded System Teaching Lab- oratory (abbreviated to EST Lab) in 2004. We also designed a series of training courses to meet the design trend of em- bedded software mentioned above. The EST Lab is equipped with various ARM-based ref- erence platforms, such as Samsung ARM7 S3C4510, TI OMAP dual-core processor platforms etc, as well as their development tools. In the laboratory, embedded Linux is adopted for these experimental platforms. The availability of the source codes enables students to design hands-on ex- periments in board-support package (BSP), boot loaders, hardware abstraction layer (HAL), kernel, device drivers, dual-processors communications, and various hardware- software interfaces. Students can practice embedded OS programming skills such as multi-tasking, real-time schedul- ing and synchronization. The abundance of Linux-based open source project and implimentations also gives students reference materials to design sophisticated project and implimentations. The open source commu- nity enlarges the classroom so that students can broaden their learning scopes once they are familiar with fundamen- tal skills. To comply with the open source spirit, project and implimentations developed in the laboratory are also open to the open com- munity. To bring embedded systems closer to students [11] and shorten the gap between school and industry, the objective of this laboratory is two-folded: to provide a series of em- bedded software design courses for full-time EE students and to support industrial hands-on training courses. Combined with the industrial training programs, it is our hope that this laboratory will provide an interactive environment among the local industries, students and instructors. In this pa- per, we describe our philosophy of the course design for the school curriculum and industrial training programs. This paper also presents the issues, challenges and experiences in setting up an embedded system teaching laboratory and designing appropriate educational programs for embedded engineering.
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