Project Based Learning in Embedded Systems: A Case Study

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Wildermoth, Brett
Rowlands, David
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Llewellyn Mann & Scott Daniel


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Melbourne, Australia


BACKGROUND In this paper we describe our application of the principles of Project Based Learning (PBL) to a fourth year embedded electronics design course. The course is fundamental to the computer systems major and therefore crucial that students gain an in depth understanding of the concepts covered. Through the use of a reconfigurable development platform called the Nanoboard 3000, students explore digital design, embedded system development, and digital signal processing. PURPOSE This paper reports on the application of PBL to increase the level of engagement and learning outcomes for students enrolled in the final year embedded electronics course. DESIGN/METHOD In order to be able to apply the principles of PBL to the course "advanced embedded systems" we had to find a project that was: real world; met the education requirements of the course; was engaging to the students; and provided an avenue for self-learning. The practical component of this course provided the perfect opportunity to incorporate these principles. However, since many of the concepts taught in this course are new to the students, a series of structured laboratories are provided in the first half of the semester. During the second half of the semester, students are given the opportunity to chose any game from the 1980's and develop it for the Nanoboard 3000. RESULTS Since 2009 to present day, we have implemented the principles of PBL within the course "advanced embedded systems". We show the positive role it has played within this course through the use of student survey results, observations of student behaviour, written feedback from the students, and distribution of grades, over the past 3 years. Results from the student survey have resulted in this course to be ranked in the top 12.5% of the courses within the university. The student survey ranks the average effectiveness of this course between 6.4 and 6.7 on the 7-point likert scale, with a standard deviation in the range of 10% to 20%. The written student feedback was extremely positive; one such comment is included below. Practical Applications with an extremely interesting assessment item made this a very fun and engaging course. This would be the subject I have most enjoyed over the duration of my entire degree The observations made of the students' behaviour showed that the students had pride in their work and were responsible for their own learning. The grade distributions for this course show that half the class achieved more than 85% in 2010 and 2011 and less than 15% failed to met the minimum learning outcomes for the course. CONCLUSIONS Our aim was to extend the principles of PBL into the course "advanced embedded systems". We achieved this using a structured laboratory component and a game based project. During the labs students gained the confidence to complete the project and the project gave them ownership of their solution. The feedback from the students, both numerically and written showed positive support for the course. The grade

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Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE) - The Profession of Engineering Education: Advancing Teaching, Research and Careers

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© The Author(s) 2012. The attached file is posted here with permission of the copyright owners for your personal use only. No further distribution permitted. For information about this conference please refer to the publisher’s website or contact the authors.

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Educational Technology and Computing

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