Course aims to help students understand connected embedded systems from microcontroller to cloud
Imagination Technologies (IMG.L) and Microchip Technology, together with Digilent Inc. have launched the Connected MCU Lab, a new course developed through the companies’ respective university programs.
The semester-long curriculum, available to universities worldwide, is designed to be an introductory and first microcontroller (MCU) class taken by undergraduate electronic engineering and computer science students. It delivers an interactive and compelling start to connected embedded systems education – covering MCUs and input/output (I/O), real-time operating system concepts, advanced MIPS processor architecture and cloud connectivity – all presented in a fresh and jargon-free style.
The Connected MCU Lab takes a hands-on approach, leveraging a Wi-Fi enabled development board, tools, software, and cloud services – everything needed to design innovative Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.
Lessons are based around the chipKIT Wi-FIRE board from Digilent Inc., which uses Microchip’s popular PIC32MZ MCU incorporating a 32-bit MIPS M-Class CPU from Imagination. A chipKIT Basic I/O Shield is used for expansion along with a PICkit 3 In-Circuit Debugger from Microchip. Teachers and students have free access to professional software tools including MPLAB X Integrated Development Environment, MPLAB XC32 C compiler, and MPLAB Harmony Software Development Framework from Microchip, as well as Imagination’s cloud technologies.
The Connected MCU Lab curriculum, authored by Dr. Alexander Dean of North Carolina State University, includes presentation slides for each module, a student guide, exercises, tests, solutions, and an Instructor’s Guide.
Says Robert Owen, manager, Worldwide University Programme at Imagination: “The need for internet connectivity and the demand for ease of development are rapidly driving the embedded world towards 32-bit MCUs. As a result, the next generation of embedded system designers and developers need to understand the techniques of connecting embedded systems to the cloud. This is an urgent teaching requirement as many college courses today are still using 8-bit and 16-bit MCUs. The Connected MCU Lab course makes it easy to give the next generation of engineers the skills they need. The 32-bit MIPS CPUs at the heart of Microchip’s popular PIC32 MCUs are ideal for teaching and projects, and the Wi-FIRE board is powerful enough to support very ambitious projects, enabling this course to provide a foundation on which students can grow throughout their degree.”
The MIPS CPU IP core in the PIC32 MCU is part of the same family as “MIPSfpga,” a soft IP core used in many computer architecture and SoC courses, thereby creating powerful synergy between two vital branches of engineering education.
Eighteen universities across Australia, China, Germany, Israel, Portugal, Russia and the United Kingdom participated in the Connected MCU Lab beta program. Academics are welcome to visit www.imgtec.com/university to register and access the course materials.
“The Connected MCU Lab is an exciting program and a great complement to programs we are already offering in smart embedded systems. For students, having a hands-on approach to understanding the potential of 32-bit microcontrollers and cloud connectivity is extremely critical as it gives them insight into a current technology being used in the industry and prepares them well as they embark on careers in this field,” said John Kneen, Adjunct Professor, School of Engineering, RMIT University, Australia.